Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Perry (and Washington) On US Foreign Policy

Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry was in New York today giving a speech where he accused President Barack Obama of not only single-handedly setting out to destroy the United States, but to destroy Israel as well. The backdrop for Perry's speech was the United Nations General Assembly meeting where the Palestinians are widely expected to petition the UN for full member-nation status. Perry contends that the Palestinians wouldn't be taking such a step if Obama hadn't thrown Israel under the bus.

"Simply put, we would not be here today, at the precipice of such a dangerous
move, if the Obama policy in the Middle East wasn't naive, arrogant, misguided
and dangerous,” Perry said.
As we've seen from last week's special election in Queens, New York to fill the seat of disgraced congressman Anthony Weiner, potentially sabotaging America's relationship with the world's billion-plus Muslims by vetoing Palestine's petition to the UN just isn't enough to make some people believe that Obama isn't anti-Israel. Perry's fellow presidential candidate, businessman Herman Cain, has also said that he would make support for Israel the bedrock of his presidency.

Since candidates, particularly Republican candidates, love to wrap themselves in the words of the Founding Fathers, it’s a good time to print what George Washington himself had to say about “foreign entanglements”:

A passionate attachment of one Nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite Nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest, in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter, without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite Nation of privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the Nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained; and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld.

Now none of what I'm saying should be taken as an anti-Israeli position; I think that the only places US presidential candidates should be speaking of defending so passionately are parts of the United States itself. But if we are talking foreign policy, I can easily think of a list of places of far more strategic/economic importance to the United States than Israel that these candidates should be focusing on, for example:

– the country with which we share thousands of miles of border, which is currently locked in bloody battle with the militias of a group of powerful drug cartels.
China – the nation many feel will soon join America in the Superpower Club.
Canada – the other nation with whom we share thousands of miles of border, who also is our largest trading partner and a major energy supplier; just because the Canadians are quiet doesn't mean we can ignore them.
The European Union – gripped by an economic crisis that could drag our country into a recession, or a depression.
Saudi Arabia – the country that still exports more of the black sticky stuff we're addicted to than anyone else in the world.

Those are just five off the top of my head. You could probably make a case for Russia, Brazil, India, Japan and even Somalia as having more real importance to the United States than Israel. Yet an outsized portion of our foreign policy efforts remain focused on the US-Israel relationship. And at least in the early days of the campaign, it seems like Israel will take center stage in our foreign policy debates as well.

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