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The "American Way" and Israel

JINSA Report #: 

May 9, 2011

This was supposed to be about Israel's 63rd birthday - a paean to our friend and democratic ally. But an e-mail arrived this morning from a congressional staffer, reading in part:

I'm hearing conflicting things - some are saying that the U.S. really needs to put the hammer to Assad. And yet I'm also hearing that we are tacitly benefitting from this in terms of worldwide PR, in that it makes Assad (and by proxy, Iran and Hezbollah) look terrible. What's a Congressman to think? What should the objective be for the U.S. in Syria?

Our reply, in essence:

A Congressman should wonder what the United States stands for when more than 500 people have been killed and perhaps 10,000 have been arrested or "disappeared" with little or no comment from us. A Congressman should wonder who are we when our Secretary of State says Assad is in danger of losing his reputation as a "reformer." Hezbollah looks terrible by proxy? Hezbollah doesn't need help. Hezbollah puts rockets and ammunition under houses in southern Lebanon making human shields of the residents. That is a war crime. Iran looks terrible by proxy? Iran stones women and homosexuals, tortures and hangs its citizens in secret and is building nuclear weapons. A Congressman would have to be a real cynic to say, "Let's let Assad kill and torture his own people and we will get the PR benefit when he and his friends look bad."

In fact, he only looks bad to people with a certain standard of behavior - your standard. For those who follow the "strong horse" principle - see author Lee Smith's book on power and politics in the Arab world - Assad is behaving the way a leader should! He's ensuring that he and his cronies remain in place and in power, and those who oppose him die. A Congressman shouldn't think that because you think he looks bad, others necessarily agree.

"Put the hammer" to Assad? We still have an ambassador in Damascus. We haven't even sanctioned Assad, just a few of his goons. We're still pretending he's different. He's not. Why is there any question about where the U.S. government or Congress should be on Syria? What is our policy goal in Syria?

The policy goal has always to be the same - "Truth, Justice and the American Way." Superman gave it up, you know - said it's not enough anymore. He's wrong. It is enough to be on the side of "the people" and their ability to wake up in the morning and not be shot before dinner, or dragged off to the dungeon in the middle of the night. If a country can't have that as a minimum standard, it shouldn't find the United States government on its side - that's the American way.

We don't have to occupy them; we had relations with the Russians in the Cold War but no one doubted whose side we were on. On the other hand, Churchill had the British Army occupy Athens to fight the communists in 1944 so they wouldn't take over as the Nazis retreated. Now we're wondering whether we should stick with the dictator while he makes himself "look bad" but stays in power, which is his cultural imperative.

The American cultural imperative is a bias toward democratic, free-market countries with multiple centers of power including an independent legislature, unions and journalists, and respect for civil and religious liberties, minorities rights and the rule of law. Bias toward the government of Costa Rica over that of Venezuela. Toward Italy over Zimbabwe. Great Britain over Myanmar. Taiwan over Sudan.

Israel over anyone else in the region and in most of the world.

Come to think of it, Happy Birthday, Israel, and many more.

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