I've finally reached the part of The $36 Billion Bargain where the author Organski starts talking about why the United States supports Israel. Up until now, he's debunked the myths that it's because of a) the Israeli lobby and b) American Jews. There are a couple different reasons, but each one is complex and multi-faceted, so we'll take each one at a time. I'll outline his argument first and then add my own commentary. Remember, this book was written in the 1980s, so things may have changed since then.
In the 1950s, 60s and 70s, the United States' most important goal of foreign policy was to combat the spread of Communism in general and the Soviet Union's influence specifically. Each US President wanted to be perceived as being tough on Communism, and there were widespread (and perhaps unjustified) fears that the Soviet Union would attack Western Europe. As a result of these fears, the United States renounced the hopes of isolationism from some of its population and took its place as the head defender of capitalism.
There were three fronts for combating the Soviet Union: Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. In each area, the United States had allies that it supported to offset Soviet influence. In Europe, the US had NATO, the collection of Western European nations that individually could not stand up to the Soviets but together had a chance. The US had its own troops in West Germany and other places in Europe for that reason as well. In Asia, the US had client states, such as South Korea, South Vietnam, and Japan. Because the spread of Communism was stronger there (eventually claiming China) and because the US's client states were weaker, the US had to place more of its own forces there, fighting two wars in the process. And in the Middle East, the US had Israel.
The Arab states surrounding Israel were Soviet clients. The Soviet Union armed the Arab armies and in some cases even sent its own soldiers to fight alongside them. Because Israel was a Western-style democracy and wanted to be allies with the US, the US thought of Israel as a possible counter to Soviet influence. However, it wasn't until the 1967 war and Israel's easy and spectacular victory of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan that the United States became convinced that Israel could fight effectively and was therefore worthy of aid. The US began to arm Israel with American weapons and away we go.
Now, look at the world map again from the US's perspective of combating Soviet influence in a cost-saving way. American troops stationed overseas cost a heck of a lot of money, according to 36BB over $1,000 per soldier per day, and that's just if the soldiers are sitting around. All the American soldiers stationed in Germany were very expensive. Meanwhile, in Asia, the cost of fighting two wars in twenty years in dollars alone, to say nothing about the cost of manpower, domestic content, and international standing, was in the hundreds of billions of dollars range. Compared to the cost of defending Europe and Asia, funding Israel was practically a drop in the bucket. Giving Israel weapons to fight the US's enemy (remember, before 1967 Israel and the Soviet Union were getting along just fine) was a lot better for the US than using American soldiers for the same task.
That's the first of Organski's arguments for why the US supports Israel in the 1980s. You might say, today in 2010 the Cold War is over and the Soviet Union doesn't exist anymore. Is this argument is still relevant?
I would say yes. The global enemy that the US is fighting is no longer the Soviet Union but rather Islamic fundamentalism. And just like before, the US is fighting the enemy directly in Iraq and Afghanistan and paying a high price for it. Israel is also on the front lines in this fight and is undoubtedly providing invaluable, although intangible, intelligence assistance. Again, compared to the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, funding Israel is practically an afterthought, and it accomplishes much the same goals. If anything, the US is going to be even more dedicated to fighting Islamic fundamentalism because Islamic fundamentalism succeeded in doing what the Soviet Union never did, attacking the US directly on its own territory.
So that's the first reason the US supports Israel. Stay tuned in the coming days for some more.