That large majority is opposed merely to America’s efforts to broker a resolution, let alone to an American commitment, as Giuliani proposes, to fight in every war that Israel fights with its neighbors. A USA Today/Gallup Poll taken at the same time found:
In the current conflict, do you think the United States should take Israel’s side, take the side of Hezbollah, or not take either side?
Israel’s – 31%
Hezbollah’s – 0%
Neither – 65%
As always, it is worth underscoring how lopsided American public opinion is on these questions even though there is virtually no significant American politician who was or is willing to criticize Israel’s actions in Lebanon, and equally few who were willing to argue that U.S. support for Israel is excessive. With Americans now even more overwhelmingly against ongoing U.S. occupation in Iraq than they were back then, these numbers are almost certainly even more imbalanced against increased U.S. involvement in the Middle East.
Plainly, the last thing most Americans want is for the U.S. to expand its involvement in Middle East wars, particularly when doing so is on behalf of the interests not of the U.S., but of another country. Yet here is Giuliani advocating that we do exactly that — embrace an obviously radical strategy opposed by the overwhelming majority of Americans, likely vehemently opposed — and the silence is deafening.
Of course, none of Giuliani’s extremism on this issue should be surprising, given that his senior foreign policy advisor is Norman Podhoretz, whose life has been devoted to trying to induce the U.S. to wage war against any country hostile to Israel. Podhoretz was one of the signatories on the 2002 PNAC letter to President Bush which declared that “No one should doubt that the United States and Israel share a common enemy” and — listing Iraq, Iran and Syria, among others — argued that “Israel is fighting the same war.” Podhoretz currently “prays” that the U.S. bomb Iran.
This idea of Israel joining NATO is even a fringe idea in Israel, where it has been pushed primarily by Israeli super-hawk, Minister of Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman, consistent with his own self-described mission: “Our first task is to convince Western countries to adopt a tough approach to the Iranian problem.” And by “tough approach,” he does not mean diplomacy: “The dialogue with Iran will be a 100-percent failure, just like it was with North Korea.”
In some sense, one can welcome Giuliani’s explicit advocacy that we view all of Israel’s enemies as, by definition, enemies of the U.S. Virtually all of the swirling war dances towards Iran are rooted in this belief, but advocates of war with Iran are too dishonest to acknowledge it openly. In his Washington Post column this morning, for instance, Charles Krauthammer — long an advocate of war with Iran — listed the four specific crimes that allegedly demonstrate that Iran is our Enemy (“our” meaning the United States):
(1) Hamas launching rockets into Israeli towns and villages across the border from the Gaza Strip. Its intention is to invite an Israeli reaction, preferably a bloody and telegenic ground assault.
(2) Hezbollah heavily rearmed with Iranian rockets transshipped through Syria and preparing for the next round of fighting with Israel. The third Lebanon war, now inevitable, awaits only Tehran’s order.
(3) Syria, Iran’s only Arab client state, building up forces across the Golan Heights frontier with Israel. And on Wednesday, yet another anti-Syrian member of Lebanon’s parliament was killed in a massive car bombing.
(4) The al-Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard training and equipping Shiite extremist militias in the use of the deadliest IEDs and rocketry against American and Iraqi troops. Iran is similarly helping the Taliban attack NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Of the four crimes in the Bill of Particulars against Iran, only one has anything even ostensibly to do with the U.S., and that is composed of highly dubious claims (arming the Taliban) and ones which hardly demonstrate its Evil (they are interfering in a neighboring country of theirs which we invaded and are occupying with 160,000 soldiers). As Krauthammer’s column illuminates, for those salivating for an American war with Iran, the case is grounded overwhelmingly in the Giuliani View — that the U.S. should use its resources and lives to wage war against any country hostile to Israel.
Why do Giuliani and Krauthammer and friends feel so free to advocate a plainly fringe position of Endless War on behalf of Israel? Usually, political advocates, and particularly presidential candidates, avoid such positions like the plague. Here, it is because no political figure can possibly oppose this view, at least not explicitly. Is it even possible to imagine a presidential candidate objecting to the view that the U.S. should consider Israel’s enemies to be enemies of the U.S., even though vast majorities of Americans share that objection?
As is true for Iraq, it is so striking how little public opinion matters when it comes to formulating American policy. What accounts for the complete unwillingess of any presidential candidate to seize on Giuliani’s extremist and fringe position? The neoconservative New York Sun — not Mearsheimer and Walt in their important, richly documented and now NYT-Best-Selling new book, but The New York Sun — provided an answer recently:
It [an AIPAC dinner] is also an important illustration of just how much stock all of the presidential candidates, Democrats and Republicans alike, will put in the pro-Israel community, particularly for campaign dollars. . . . .
A Democratic political consultant who worked on President Clinton’s re-election campaign, Hank Sheinkopf, noted that the Aipac dinner always draws a parade of politicians.
“New York is the ATM for American politicians. Large amounts of money come from the Jewish community,” he said. “If you’re running for president and you want dollars from that group, you need to show that you’re interested in the issue that matters most to them.”
And, of course, mentioning any of this subjects one to a cascade of predictable and transparently exploitive though still nasty accusations of anti-semitism, and what presidential candidate would possibly want that? And thus Rudy Giuliani can propose a policy that is incomparably dangerous and intensely unpopular, yet know that his doing so will result in no political price being paid.
Now that we are occupying two Middle Eastern countries, with a broken military, and are threatening imminent war with at least another one, isn’t it long past time to have the discussion about the extent to which the U.S. is willing to wage war on behalf of Israel’s interests? Do Americans really think that Iranian hostility towards Israel or its support for “terrorists groups” that are hostile to Israel are grounds for declaring Iran to be our Enemy or waging war against them? If so, then let proponents of war with Iran make that case expressly. And for the rest of the presidential campaign, shouldn’t Giuliani’s desire to involve the U.S. military in every war Israel fights be a rather central feature in discussions of his potential presidency?