Sunday, March 15, 2009

‘Passionate Attachment’ Costs Taxpayers Trillion$

‘Passionate Attachment’ Costs Taxpayers Trillion$

George Washington warned Americans about the high cost of permanent alliances. Cautioning future generations against the “illusion of a common interest,” he advised in his farewell address of September 1796 that the costs were particularly acute when an alliance is accompanied by a “passionate attachment” to that foreign nation.

A change in presidencies offers a timely moment to tally the costs of America’s six-decade alliance with Israel in terms of both blood and treasure. But for that alliance, would the U.S. military be waging two wars in the Middle East? The 9-11 Commission reported that the mastermind of that mass murder was motivated by his outrage at U.S. support for Israel.

With 4,195 (and counting) Americans dead, 30,000- plus grievously wounded and hundreds of billions spent, are those costs traceable to the passionate attachment that Zionists—both Christians and Jews—have for Israel? Joe Stiglitz, a Nobel prize-winning economist, projects that the long-term costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will exceed $3 trillion.

Other economists include in the cost of this lengthy alliance the expense of the Arab oil embargo 35 years ago. When Arab nations sought to recover land taken by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967, Richard Nixon resupplied the Israel Defense Forces. In response, Arab oil producers hiked the price of oil, igniting a recession that cost the U.S. an estimated $420 billion in foregone economic output.

But for that alliance, higher priced energy would not have cost Americans $450 billion, according to economist Thomas Stauffer, writing in the Christian Science Monitor in December 2002. Should those embargo related costs be included? Are they rightly part of the “but for” tally? How about the $134 billion for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve established as a hedge against Arab nations again using their oil clout?

What about the $117 billion given to Egypt and $22 billion to Jordan as foreign aid in return for signing peace treaties with Israel? Those costs raise the tally to $4.3 trillion. But for this alliance, would the U.S. have incurred those costs?

If not, then all or a substantial portion of that $4.3 trillion should be included when weighing the costs and benefits of what is routinely described as the U.S.-Israel “special relationship.”

Should we include the expense of keeping oil-shipping lanes open in a volatile region that would be less volatile but for Israel’s expansionist policies in the region?

Though debates rage about how best to tally the indirect “but for” costs, little dispute surrounds the expense of direct outlays. The cumulative direct aid since 1948 was put at $113.85 billion in the November 2008 issue of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (found at

Direct outlays are often hidden in obscure sections of the federal budget by Israel’s allies in the congressional appropriations process. No one disputes that Israel has been the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. aid since World War II. In 2007, U.S. lawmakers committed American taxpayers to pay an average $3 billion to Tel Aviv each year over a 10-year period—for another $30 billion. Those direct costs omit a 2005 defense appropriations commitment authorizing the transfer to Israel of “surplus” military equipment. The amount and cost of that equipment was not specified.

How does one tally the cost in U.S. jobs due to trade sanctions enacted at the urging of the Israel lobby that reduce U.S. exports to the Middle East? Unlike other recipients, Tel Aviv is allowed to spend in-country 26.3 percent of each year’s U.S. military aid. Israel’s defense industry now ranks ninth in global arms exports. What is the cost of that policy in U.S. jobs?

Absent from this partial tally is any mention of the strategic costs of this alliance. How does one compute the “but for” costs of an avowed ally that routinely dispatches spies who compromise U.S. national security?

What costs did Jonathan Pollard impose on American interests when he stole more than one million classified documents? Or when sensitive technologies were leaked to China? Or when officials of the Israel lobby gave Tel Aviv classified information on Iran?

In a governing system based on informed consent, the opinions of informed Americans should be surveyed before more funds are committed to this special relationship:

Should Israel remain first-ranked as a recipient of U.S. foreign aid?

Should Tel Aviv receive $8.5 million per day in U.S. military assistance?

Should Americans pay for Israel’s armed occupation of Palestinian land?

Should the U.S. military be deployed to wage war in Iran on Israel’s behalf?

After six decades, perhaps a newly elected president should heed our first president’s advice: “It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.”

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