Written by Brian Betts exclusively for SouthFront
Shortly after the October War of 1973, Washington began subsidizing Israel’s military. Since 1976, Israel has been the largest recipient of military aid from the American taxpayer. The current agreement, signed by the George W. Bush administration in 2003, will see American aid to Israel run out next year. Efforts are already in motion to not only extend military aid to Israel for another decade, but to also increase the dollar amount significantly.
National Public Radio (NPR) reports that a staggering 83 U.S. Senators, out of a total body of 100, recently signed a letter to President Obama asking for the administration to negotiate a new 10-year “memorandum of understanding” with Israel. Israel is reportedly seeking an annual increase from 3.1 billion dollars, to 5 billion dollars.
The Exceptional Case of Israel
Military aid given to smaller countries by larger powers plays a crucial role in dictating regional policies, and as a practice, is not likely to end. Deals between smaller neighbors of immediate geographic proximity are inevitable, as the smaller powers must find a way to fulfill their material needs in their order of battle and may naturally share some of the same geopolitical interests as their military benefactors. Smaller nations that lack the industry and finances to field a modern army trade the freedom of choice in sourcing equipment for the equipment itself. In theory, the providing country enjoys an exclusive relationship as the equipment vendor.
In most cases, military aid understandings include the requirement that every dollar given be spent on American-made weapons. Israel, however, is allotted a 25% portion of the American aid to be more-or-less stipulation-free. This exception means Israel has had a lot of free capital flowing in to foster their own domestic weapons industry.
As of 2008, Israel was the seventh largest arms supplier in the world, with gross sales of nearly 10 billion dollars. America’s current yearly contribution of 3.1 billion may see like a large sum of money, but only comprises a fifth of Israel’s overall budget. American policy makers should be able to see that the economic need for the aid is hardly valid in 2016. Without American aid, Israel still has a strong, home-grown, military industrial complex to rely on.
Ironically, from a free market capitalist’s standpoint, America has financed their customer’s own foray into the weapons market. In this sense, foreign military aid to Israel not only corrupts the nature of sovereignty for both parties, but fundamental U.S. economic principals as well.
Changing Public Perception
There are plenty of pressing debt-related issues on the American home front that could be addressed with an additional five billion dollars per year. The nearly 19 billion dollar debt owed by the City of Detroit could be paid off in four years. The immediate debt payment of 422 million dollars owed by Puerto Rico could be paid in full, along with a few more payments out of the overall 72 billion dollar debt.
In 2014, the American taxpayer helped subsidize the militaries of no fewer than 20 countries. Military aid to foreign countries has been a staple of American foreign policy since the end of World War I. While public opinion has remained somewhat favorable to foreign aid throughout its history, there are recent outliers, such as the Egyptian Revolution of 2013, where the American public has been strongly in favor of cutting off military aid to a specific country.
Evidence of a widespread change in opinion on foreign aid can be seen in the warm reception given to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s so-called ‘isolationist’ foreign policy statements such as this:
“We will no longer surrender this country or its people to the false song of globalism. The nation-state remains the true foundation for happiness and harmony. I am skeptical of international unions that tie us up and bring America down.”
Trump’s social media posts that mention ending US involvement in Syria and the funding of NATO are among his most popular. These same statements are reviled by many politicians on both sides of the aisle.
The leading nominee for the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, has called Trump’s statements on curtailing American military aid “dangerous and naïve.” Avowed pro-interventionists, such as Madeline Albright, have accused Trump of not understanding history, while the American Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was quick to hurl accusations of anti-Semitism at the Donald for his usage of “America First,” a statement that has been inextricably linked to the “America First Committee,” which opposed American involvement in World War II.
On the Republican side, Senator Lindsey Graham claimed Trump “has no understanding of the world and the role we play.” This statement reveals the root cause of the gap between public and policy; Washington in its collective consciousness is unable to register the changing paradigm of the American Zeitgeist. Trump, for all his buffoonery, hasn’t failed to understand the world or the role America plays, rather, the incumbent U.S. leadership has failed to acknowledge a waveform which exists in all civilizations; the breath of outward expansion and inward reflection. Americans are increasingly favoring a more isolationist standpoint.
Militaries are a physical manifestation of sovereignty and a nation’s right to existence. Significant foreign subsidization of a military may bolster its capabilities, but it degrades its cadre and the intrinsic value of its mission. A country’s military is its ultimate argument towards its right to exist, and America does a disservice to democracy and peace when it takes such a prominent role in funding foreign powers a world away from its own borders.