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The Limits of U.S. Military Assistance

JINSA Report #: 

February 15, 2011

The United States provides military assistance to a variety of countries in the Middle East, Africa and Southwest Asia, including Israel, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Jordan, Yemen, Pakistan and Bangladesh. We provide equipment and training for the security forces of the Palestinian Authority. We also provide military aid to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Chad and Yemen - all of which violate the Child Soldiers Prevention Act, which should have made them ineligible but the Obama administration requested a waiver. We encourage a variety of other countries to purchase vast amounts of American-made military equipment with their own money - Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and the UAE among them - and we pay some of them for basing rights. Although Turkey no longer participates in the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program, it receives money for military education and training and the United States has been paying tens of millions of dollars for use of the air base at Incirlik.


With the exception of Israel - which is a very big exception - it is the American belief that the recipient governments will agree with us about what constitutes a threat to their security and ours, and will accordingly make war on the "right" people and prevail. Both beliefs are sorely tested at the moment.

In several countries, the central government does not control all of its own territory. In others, the government may be inclined to make a deal with insurgents rather than fight them. In some places, the government itself is shaky and American equipment could fall into the hands of opposition forces -providing a military windfall for the opposition and possibly a windfall of intelligence information for its allies (China, Iran and/or Russia). In very few places is the military under civilian control. In almost none would it make a difference in terms of human rights. In some places, the government is no better than its insurgent enemies.

This is not to say the United States should not provide military aid and training in places we believe it does more good than harm on balance. In Central and South America, Colombia largely eradicated the Venezuelan/Ecuadorean-financed FARC narco-terrorists and vastly improved human rights at the same time. The Honduran military proved its fealty to the civilian constitution under stress.

What it does, however, is remind us that there is a vast difference between Israel and the other countries of the CENTCOM/AFRICOM region - and pulls the rug out from under George Soros, Michael Scheuer, Rand Paul and others who believe: a) in a choice between Israel and the other countries we should give up Israel and curry favor with the others; or, b) not fund anyone because no one deserves our financial support.

Friends of Israel often point to the benefits the United States receives from Israel in terms of military R&D, testing and evaluation, tactics and training. True and that is another exception to the countries above. But that isn't the reason.

American military aid to Israel should be supported in Congress and elsewhere for two reasons: First, because Israel is surrounded by countries that not only have never accepted its legitimacy in the region, but have also proved willing to spend their money, our money and their peoples' lives in an effort to eradicate a UN member country. It is in our interest to help Israel protect itself from others who did and still do seek its destruction.

Second, - and equally important - Israel shares our fundamental democratic values and its strength and security are part of the strength and security of the free world.

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