Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

Petraeus: Israel is putting American lives at risk (updated)

Update I: All this is interesting given that General Petraeus has been named as the 2010 recipient of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI)’s Kristol Award — is this a neocon attempt to politically co-opt a key military figure involved in two wars, hoped by some to become “President Petraeus” (though he says he’s not interested)? The plot thickens. See also Spencer Ackerman’s Petraeus Reportedly Wanted To Put West Bank, Gaza Under Central Command (although publicly denied by General Petraeus, an assertion repeated in Vanity Fair by Mark Bowden) and Updates II, III and IV added below.

Mark Perry has elaborated on his recent FP piece at Paul Woodward’s War in Context. In ‘The Petraeus briefing: Biden’s embarrassment is not the whole story‘, Perry describes an unprecedented bombshell briefing with Admiral Mullen in which the views of senior Arab leaders that the US administration is ineffectual and incapable of standing up to Israel are conveyed, as well as those of General Petraeus who sees the so-called ‘special relationship’ with Israel as putting American lives and interests at risk.

With a long-time Pentagon association, Perry notes that the only lobby in the US on a par with the Israel Lobby is the military, which makes this briefing even more significant:

The January Mullen briefing was unprecedented. No previous CENTCOM commander had ever expressed himself on what is essentially a political issue; which is why the briefers were careful to tell Mullen that their conclusions followed from a December 2009 tour of the region where, on Petraeus’s instructions, they spoke to senior Arab leaders. “Everywhere they went, the message was pretty humbling,” a Pentagon officer familiar with the briefing says. “America was not only viewed as weak, but its military posture in the region was eroding.”

Mark Perry additionally comments (excerpted here and worth reading in full):

My sense is that General Petraeus neither likes nor dislikes Israel: but he loves his country and he wants to protect our soldiers. The current crisis in American relations with Israel is not a litmus test of General Petraeus’s loyalty to Israel, but of his, and our, concern for those Americans in uniform in the Middle East.

It is, perhaps, a sign of the depth of “the Biden crisis” that every controversy of this type seems to get translated into whether or not America and its leaders are committed to Israel’s security. This isn’t about Israel’s security, it’s about our security.

Perry reiterates these sentiments in this The World interview (see also this Democracy Now! interview):

This follows in the wake of Biden’s visit to Israel where, according to a report in Yedioth Ahronoth, Biden reportedly told Netanyahu privately: “This is starting to get dangerous for us. What you’re doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional peace.”

Update II

General Petraeus’s Centcom Statement before the Senate Armed Services Committee – 16th March 2010 (56pp .pdf):

Page 12:

Insufficient progress toward a comprehensive Middle East peace. The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the AOR [area of responsibility]. Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large-scale armed confrontations. The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support. The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hizballah and Hamas.

Page 33:

A credible U.S. effort on Arab-Israeli issues that provides regional governments and populations a way to achieve a comprehensive settlement of the disputes would undercut Iran’s policy of militant “resistance,” which the Iranian regime and insurgent groups have been free to exploit.

Page 38:

The Levant and Egypt sub-region is the traditional political, social, and intellectual heart of the Arab world and is vital to security and stability in the CENTCOM AOR. Because of its history as a primary battleground between rival ideologies, the dynamics of this sub-region, particularly with regard to Israel, influence the internal and external politics of states outside the region as well. In addition, U.S. policy and actions in the Levant affect the strength of our relationships with partners in the AOR. As such, progress toward resolving the political disputes in the Levant, particularly the Arab-Israeli conflict, is a major concern for CENTCOM.

In Paul Woodward’s take, he writes of Petraeus’s statements:

If such a statement was being made outside the American political arena, it could be regarded as a rather bland expression of what has long been utterly obvious. Yet from the lips of a celebrated general, regarded by many as a potential future president, these words come as a bombshell.

Neoconservatives and the Israel lobby have worked hard and long to obscure the deeply corrosive regional impact of a conflict that successive Israeli leaders have either been unwilling or seemingly incapable of resolving. Others, who earlier said what Petraeus now says, have either been dismissed as poorly informed or worse, branded as anti-Israeli or by insinuation, anti-Semitic.

No such charge will stick to Petraeus. Indeed, if the Israel lobby was so foolhardy as to try and go after an American general who sometimes gets treated like a latterday Eisenhower, the lobby will be at dire risk of being visited by its own greatest fear: being branded as anti-American.

In the Washington Post, the editorial finds itself in a similar position to AIPAC: having to oppose its own government to maintain its untenably uncritical line on Israel. As Joe Klein noted of AIPAC’s statement: “I can’t remember another ethnic or religious lobbying group publicly siding with a foreign country against the President of the United States…especially when the country in question is engaging in behavior that the international community believes is illegal.” Similarly, WaPo’s editorial entitled “The U.S. quarrel with Israel” says

It has been startling — and a little puzzling — to see Mr. Obama deliberately plunge into another public brawl with the Jewish state.

As Robert Dreyfuss notes in The Pentagon Vs Israel? (see also US-Israel Showdown?),

“With any luck, that brawl is just beginning”.

And the neocons mentioned at the start? As Jim Lobe wonders: “And now that the neo-conservatives, staunch supporters of Bibi Netanyahu, have built up Petraeus as the greatest U.S. military commander since World War II, and, thanks to Bill Kristol, a presidential candidate to die for, how will they react?”


See also John Mearsheimer, Scott Horton, Helena Cobban, Amjad Atallah, Pat Buchanan on Biden’s groveling, a round-up of the blogosphere from Ali Gharib and this funny post about Abe Foxman predictably going apoplectic.

Update III

The rightwing pundits are crowing because General Petraeus reportedly issued a denial about his comments to his israeli counterpart, but personally, I subscribe to the late Lebanese PM Hariri’s comments about truth and denial: never believe anything until it has been officially denied.

Update IV

Mark Bowden’s Vanity Fair profile of Petraeus repeats Mark Perry’s claim that General Petraeus requested I-P be added to CENTCOM AOR (h/t Matt Duss):

In addition to these two major wars, Petraeus is responsible for the politically delicate security-assistance efforts in Pakistan and Yemen. He is responsible for preparing military options in the event that a confrontation with Iran over its nuclear ambitions moves beyond threats and sanctions. He has brought an expansive vision to his new job, just as he has done in the past, pushing the Obama administration to rethink its approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the broader context of the region. He relies on the cooperation of Arab nations, and so must cope with their unhappiness over America’s inability to make progress in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. It is such a direct problem for Petraeus that he requested in January that the Palestinian territories be added to his command portfolio—they currently reside with EuCom (the European Command). The request was denied, but the general’s thinking has begun to influence the Obama administration’s approach to the issue. Petraeus’s overriding focus is on routing al-Qaeda. Far more intensely than commanders were able to in the past—recall those computer screens in his office—Petraeus oversees the ever expanding effort to target and kill Islamist extremists, using everything from pilotless drones to submarine-launched cruise missiles. He still tries to go to bed every night with fewer enemies than he woke up with.

12 comments on “Petraeus: Israel is putting American lives at risk (updated)

  1. Max
    16 March, 2010

    “The only lobby…on a par with the Israel Lobby” is the military?
    How about the Oil Lobby?
    It’s so powerful it can give orders to the US military, like: “Thanks for coming in and saving Saudi Arabia **and** Kuwait from Saddam. Now, get the hell out.”

  2. m.idrees
    16 March, 2010

    As a matter of fact neither the military nor the oil lobby are on par with the Israel lobby. The Israelis got away with murdering US servicement in ’67 despite deep grumblings in the military ranks. And the oil lobby has spent less in 10 years than Haim Saban gave to the Democrats in just one year. The oil lobby was also thwarted repeatedly by Aipac in its efforts to lift sanctions on Iraq during the ’90s and AIPAC also got its way in ramming through the Iran Libya Sanctions Act, costing Big Oil billions.

  3. Ann
    16 March, 2010

    On a related note to the post, its interesting that a number of people place more faith in the military for common sense. Its worth recalling what Andrew Bacevich recently wrote:

    In the long run, however, the nattering of Kristol and his confrères is unlikely to matter much. Far more important will be the conclusions about war and its utility reached by those veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who will eventually succeed Petraeus and McChrystal on the uppermost rung of the American military profession.

    The impetus for weaning Americans away from their infatuation with war, if it comes at all, will come from within the officer corps. It certainly won’t come from within the political establishment, the Republican Party gripped by militaristic fantasies and Democrats too fearful of being tagged as weak on national security to exercise independent judgment. Were there any lingering doubt on that score, Barack Obama, the self-described agent of change, removed it once and for all: by upping the ante in Afghanistan he has put his personal imprimatur on the Long War.

    Yet this generation of soldiers has learned what force can and cannot accomplish. Its members understand the folly of imagining that war provides a neat and tidy solution to vexing problems. They are unlikely to confuse Churchillian calls to arms with competence or common sense.

  4. m.idrees
    16 March, 2010

    He is actually right. If you read Thomas Ricks’s Fiasco, it is clear that had the military had its way, or if it had a stronger person leading the JCS, the Iraq war would not have happened. With few exceptions, the whole of the officer corps was sceptical. Recall that Anthony Zinni had pointedly refused when Clinton ordered him to manufacture a pretext for attacking Iraq by shooting down a UN plane (Zinni asked Clinton to send him the order in writing, which Clinton was obviously not stupid enough to do).

  5. Rumple_Stiltskin24
    16 March, 2010

    This set of circumstances goes to show the battle now is between Right of Centre Realists against the lobby.It was always going to be thus as they are the only entities competing for genuine power.

    This is because the Right of Centre are the only body which is beginning to recognise the mechanics of lobby power and the need to counter it if the US is to have a long term future rather than be run aground following someone elses hymn sheet.

    Right of Centre Realists have no qualms about invading places like Iraq or Afghanistan but only when , if ever , the time is right, and not at the price of weakening longterm US Power.

    The lobbys fast track approach is because they recognise the medium term weakness of Israel and need to get as many gains as possible before even they recognise the US Centre Right will , as of necessity fight back against the liability that is Israel.

    The real sobering factor has been the resistance in the invaded countries which made the military realise that annual invasions of countries kindly pointed out by Ariel Sharon is a lot more costly than playing a playstation game in your living room.

    The Left are a querillous impotent backwater ghetto and are best left to their class games.

  6. m.idrees
    16 March, 2010

    With the exception our friends Phil Weiss and Tariq Ali, the left is once again proving its irrelevance (see Chomsky’s interview on Democracy Now yesterday). Interestingly, the challenge to the lobby is being mounted now from the centre and centre right. See these excellent pieces by Joe Klein and Roger Cohen.

    Pointedly, Klein notes:

    “I can’t remember another ethnic or religious lobbying group publicly siding with a foreign country against the President of the United States…especially when the country in question is engaging in behavior that the international community believes is illegal.”

  7. Max
    17 March, 2010

    There must have been some grumbling in Iran after US Navy shootdown of airliner in 1988. 290 people dead. Mistakes happen.

    Who is to blame for 2003 invasion of Iraq by US? Was it Evil Capitalist oilmen Bush and Cheney? Or was it Evil Zionist neocons?

  8. l park
    17 March, 2010

    The left is not irrelevant. Chomsky speaks the truth, which is not welcome in an arrogant, ethnocentric, war-loving country like the United States, which has sustained its military presence in foreign countries more than 120 times since our own revolution, the only one we consider appropriate and necessary. Ironically, our own government would put down just the kind of revolution that the founders pursued–power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, and I’m talking about Republican/Conservative/Tea Party power!!!! Keep it up, Noam Chomsky! Chomsky draws huge crowds to his talks every place in the world but his home country, where he is ignored–just one more sign how out-of-step the U.S. public is with their global neighbors.

  9. m.idrees
    17 March, 2010

    Mistakes eh? I am assuming you never bothered picking up a history book.

    As for the latter comment, it isn’t quite clear what you are trying to say. You want it to be a matter of opinion rather than fact?

  10. Max
    17 March, 2010

    “By some accounts, such “blue-on-blue” incidents have killed at least 13 American and five British soldiers in Iraq so far. That’s substantially lower than the 35 American and 10 British friendly fire casualties that accounted for up to 24 percent of the combat-related deaths in Operation Desert Storm…” [Quote from ABC News]
    In the middle of a shooting war Excrement Occurs. That’s the history I know.

    Are you saying you don’t have the facts on who pushed the US to invade and occupy Iraq?

  11. Rumple Stiltskin_24
    17 March, 2010

    Though i entirely agree that Chomsky ( as well as Finkelstein) are excellent entry points and original inspirations for People who now advocate Justice for the Palestinians , about 85% of the current editorial staff would cite Chomsky and/or Finkelstein as the reason they initial became interested in the Palestinian cause.The point of divergence , and a very fundamental divergence at that , is how Chomsky;Finkelstein and the Left handle the follow-through corrollary extension as posed in the maxim of Amira Hass , namely the challenge of journalists;academics and politicians is to “identify and challenge the centres of power”.

    On the Amira Haas challenge the theses of Chomsky;Finkelstein and the Left peters of very badly , reducing them to the role of impotent “commentators” rather than genuine radical challengers to the true reigns of Power in the US which because of its historical development in in the power and influence of lobbies , and not the mis-placed reliance of Marxists on street revolutions from the disempowered masses.

    Because of the flawed reading of Chomsky et al as to the Amira Haas corrollary dialectic the battle for US foreign policy had only one entity operated in the genuine battle ground , lobby politics , namely the Israel lobby.

    Unlike the Left (mis)following Chomsky lead , the Centre Right has entered the field and there is now a genuine struggle with them fighting it out for the reigns of power.

    The Left will only become relevant if they also recognise the battle for the soul of the US is to be fought in lobby politics and participate to the fullest degree.

    Personally i dont think the Left will pass the Amira Haas test for dogmatic sticking to Marx through thick and thin reasons and will forever be reduced to the role of “commentators” rather than genuine participants.

  12. Pingback: Petraeus: Israel is Putting American Lives at Risk « Theupliftingcrane's Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on 15 March, 2010 by in Audio, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, US Foreign Policy, US military and tagged , , .

Timely Reminders

"Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
-- Aldous Huxley

"The only war that matters is the war against the imagination. All others are subsumed by it."
-- Diane DiPrima, "Rant", from Pieces of a Song.

"It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there"
-- William Carlos Williams, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"