Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Israel Is Center of US Middle East Policy

A New York Times headline today sums of US Middle Eastern policy for the last 50 years, "Chaos in Middle East Grows as the U.S. Focuses on Israel."  US policy toward Arab states has always been subordinate to our policy toward Israel.  This started when early in its life the United Nations accepted the partition of Palestine, thus allowing the creation of the state of Israel.  One of the first countries to recognize the new state was the US.  (For a slightly different view of how this happened, see "The Myth of the U.N. Creation of Israel.")  In any case, the State Department, led by General George Marshall, strongly opposed President Truman's immediate recognition of Israel, motivated in part by Truman's desire for Jewish votes in the upcoming election.

The US relationship with Israel has evolved over the years, becoming closer and closer, as the US sided with Israel in the various wars that the Arabs waged because of what they saw as the Jewish usurpation of Arab land.  The Arab states joined in various degrees of enthusiasm with the resistance of their Palestinian brethren, placing the US more and more at odds with the overwhelming majority of the states and populace of the Middle East.  But for Israel, there may never have been on OPEC and an oil crisis in the US.  The twin towers of the World Trade Center might still be standing in New York.  The US might not have fought two wars in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.  The US might be many billions of dollars richer for not having supplied Israel with massive aid over the years, about $135 billion by one estimate, and $118 billion by another estimate.

Israel is truly the tail that wags the dog of US foreign policy.  There are many reasons for this, but I do not think that many of them are driven by the national interest of the United States; they are driven by the national interest of Israel, represented by the high number of Jewish politicians in America, the huge influence of Jewish money in national elections (e.g. Sheldon Adelson), and the religious beliefs of a number of conservative, evangelical Christians that Israel is essential to the endtime or rapture.  Clearly there is also the charitable motive of helping an oppressed minority that suffered terribly in World War II.  But it's not clear to me why the Arabs had to pay for Hitler's atrocities, except that it was more convenient for whites of European ancestry.  Part of the original UN settlement also must have been that Britain was exhausted by World War II and did not want to get involved in another war in the Middle East over its Palestine mandate.  It just wanted to get out of Palestine, and giving it to Israel was the easiest alternative at the time.  It was also in accord with Britain's 1917 Balfour Declaration.  But these "easy" decisions have a way of coming back to haunt us.

At the current time, I am not sure that I agree with the New York Times article whose title I quoted above.  Israel and Palestine are still the core of the troubles in the Middle East; so, I don't think Kerry should ignore them.  But the article is right that the fires in the Middle East are now in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Jordan, Iran, Afghanistan, maybe Turkey and other countries.  However, the ember that stays hot and ignites these other conflicts is the Israel-Palestinian conflict and there will be no long-term solution to Arab-spring arc of crisis until there is a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.  

Monday, July 01, 2013

Bernanke stimulus v Congress sequester

The stock market was upset by Fed Chairman Bernanke's statement that he might let the Fed's quantitative easing bond purchases taper off as the economy improves.  The market's view was apparently that a good economy was worthless; all that mattered was the Fed-supplied QE stimulus.

While the Fed was supplying stimulus through its purchases, the Congress was applying austerity through the sequester, slowing the economy by reducing government spending on many programs. I would not blame Bernanke if he has gotten tired of trying to save the American economy single-handedly, while the idiots in Congress, especially the House, are trying to bring back the Great Depression.  The economy must be somewhat better, or Congress would have killed it, but it was not ready for Congress to start beating on it with a stick.  So, I would guess that Bernanke will be happy to walk away from this mess, but he may want to start to unwind QE so that he does not get blamed if his successor does not do it right.

 This may mean that he will have to start unwinding it a little earlier than he would like to.  If that is the case, then the market may be right that there will be some rough patches ahead, as Bernanke begins to withdraw his first aid while Congress continues to inflict harm on it.

Paula Deen

I think Paula Deen has gotten a bad deal from the press and social media.  Most of the criticism has been about political correctness, not about something terrible that she has physically done. There are currently two other celebrities -- George Zimmerman and Aaron Hernandez -- both of whom appear to have killed black men.  They have gotten more evenhanded treatment from the public than Paula Deen, who truthfully admitted to using the "N-word," but has not been shown to have mistreated blacks physically, much less to have murdered any.  Yet, judging from the public reaction, her crime was worse than Zimmerman's or Hernandez'.  Other football players, including O.J. Simpson and Ray Lewis, probably killed people, but get much less criticism than Deen.  I see a politically correct double standard.  A few people have been less quick to condemn her, including Bill Maher, who of course made his name by making fun of stupid political correctness.  He sees that Paula Deen's accusers are largely narrow minded slaves to political correctness.

People often condemn her for admitting that she has used the N-word.  In essence they condemn her honesty.  But I respect her honesty.  The fact that people don't commend her honesty illustrates the poor character of those who condemn her.  These are people who think it is okay for Wall Street to lie about mortgages and take America to the brink of bankruptcy.

I see the attack on Paula Deen as an attack on the American South.  They hate her Southern cooking, and now they have an excuse to hate her personally.  While what she did is wrong, it was not an unforgivable sin, and her pleas for forgiveness should not fall on deaf ears, as they have in the public media.  The South is not as bad as New York and Los Angeles try to portray it.  One Reconstruction is enough.