While the world’s eyes are fixed on the American election coming up soon, another election with equal importance for America’s future crawled onto the calendar over the past weekend (don’t expect a monarchist to think highly of elections). Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni gave up her efforts to form a new Israeli government and called for elections. Her move may be a last negotiating gambit. If not, Israel will probably face national elections in February 2009.
At present, some polls suggest the Likud party will win. If that happens, it will mean as much for America as for Israel. Why? Because America’s Middle Eastern policy is effectively the tail on Likud’s dog. Many American neo-cons, those great guys who gave us the war in Iraq, are de facto members of Likud. Several leading American neo-cons wrote Likud’s strategy for Israel, which calls for someone — guess who? — to destroy every Middle Eastern country that could be a threat to Israel. The American invasion of Iraq represented in part that strategy being put into effect.
Those who imagine an Obama victory will see the neo-cons shown the door are in for an unpleasant surprise. Under the guise of neo-libs, they are no less influential in the Democratic establishment than in the Republican. The only way Likud could get shut out of a Democratic administration is if Obama bypasses the whole establishment in choosing his foreign and defense policy appointments. While that is fervently to be wished, it is probably not going to happen. Like figures on a medieval clock, the Republican and Democratic establishments succeed each other in an unbroken chain of policy failure.
A Likud government in Israel come next spring would make two wars virtually certain: a war between Israel and Hezbollah and another between Israel and Iran. The Israeli military leadership recently announced that in the event of another war with Hezbollah, Israel would destroy Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure throughout the country. Since the neo-libs will make certain America backs Israel to the hilt, world-wide Islamic anger over the unnecessary destruction of a small, helpless Middle Eastern country (at least a third of whose people are Christians) will focus as much on America as on Israel. Islamic 4GW organizations will get a huge boost to their recruiting and fundraising, while the legitimacy of Islamic states with ties to America will be further weakened.
An Israeli attack on Iran, in turn, could bring about the loss of the army America has in Iraq. If I sound like Cato in repeating this warning endlessly, I do so with reason. The destruction of an entire American army would mark an historic turning point, America’s Syracuse Expedition, which is what the Iraq war has resembled from the start. Our strategic position in Iraq hangs by a thread, its long, thin supply line coming up through the Persian Gulf and Kuwait. If Iran and its allied Iraqi Shiite militias cut that line, the best outcome we can hope for is a sauve que peut withdrawal of U.S. forces north into Kurdistan.
To this happy picture a Likud government in Israel might add a war with Syria and an open U.S. break with Pakistan, driven by Pakistani popular anger at America for its alliance with a Likud-led Israel. That would cut our main supply line for the war in Afghanistan, again forcing a withdrawal.
All of this would occur against a background of a world economic depression, a depression wars in the Middle East would intensify. The price of oil, now artificially depressed by a fire sale of commodities held by hedge funds, would soar to unprecedented heights. Those countries still exporting oil might dump the dollar and demand payment in gold. The American defense budget could skyrocket at a time when the U.S. faced an urgent need to cut federal spending, leading to printing-press dollars and hyperinflation.
It may be that elections in Israel hold more meaning for the United States than does America’s own coming vote. One writer quoted in the Washington Post said that if McCain wins, history will pay America a visit, "the shroud, the scythe and all Four Horsemen." That may be no less true if Obama wins, unless he improbably finds the wisdom and courage to break with the Democratic Party’s foreign policy establishment. That establishment is as tied to Israel as Russia’s foreign policy establishment was tied to Serbia in 1914. Past, I suspect, is prologue.