Andrew J. Bacevich: General Petraeus Says Israeli and U.S. Interests Diverge

[Andrew J. Bacevich is professor of history and international relations at Boston University.]

Gen. David Petraeus, commander of United States Central Command, may or may not have asked to add the West Bank and Gaza to the 4.6 million square miles of land and sea comprising his Area of Responsibility (AOR).

Writing in Foreign Policy magazine' s "Middle East Channel," journalist Mark Perry reports that he did. Petraeus, leaving himself plenty of wiggle room, says it's not so.

This much is certain, however: Gen. Petraeus, easily the most influential U. S. officer on active duty, has discovered the Holy Land. And his discovery is likely to discomfit those Americans committed to the proposition that the United States and Israel face the same threats and are bound together by identical interests.

With regard to the plight of the Palestinians, Petraeus says that this is emphatically not the case. Here, he believes, U. S. and Israeli interests diverge -- sharply and perhaps irreconcilably....

It seems increasingly clear that a thoroughgoing reappraisal of the U. S.-Israeli strategic partnership is in the offing. Much of the credit (or, if you prefer, blame) for that prospect belongs to John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, authors of the famous (or infamous) tract "The Israel Lobby."...

Out of this candor has come a rolling reassessment, with the ultimate outcome by no means clear. That David Petraeus, hitherto not known to be an anti-Semite, has implicitly endorsed one of Mearsheimer and Walt's core findings -- questioning whether the United States should view Israel as a strategic asset -- constitutes further evidence that something important is afoot....

How long the United States can tolerate the denial of Palestinian self-determination is one question demanding urgent attention. Yet behind that question there lurks an even larger one: Is the progressive militarization of U.S. policy in the Greater Middle East -- entrusting ever more authority to proconsuls like Gen. Petraeus and flooding the region with American troops -- contributing to peace and stability? Or is it producing precisely the opposite result?

Let a thousand flowers bloom.

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Robert Solomon - 3/19/2010

This is not new. We all have different perspectives, and in WWII, the British always had an eye on their post-war empire, and we (officially) deplored colonialism. We are allies with Israel for a great many cool and important reasons, but their political process is quirky, and they seem to be locked into empowering fanatic minorities who want a Greater Israel. Of course, our political process is quirky, or how did we overwhelmingly vote in Barak Obama and then instantly disown him? And of course, we do not at all understand Palestinian politics, so we dismiss it as 'corrupt', but Hamas was clearly the victor of their elective process and we are at an impasse if they are fairly-elected terrorists (and that's a mouthful!). We might jump at the chance to ally ourselves with Hamas if they distance themselves from Iran (we bought Egypt on a dime when they felt sold out by the Russians), but then we'd have allies at war with each other, like Greece and Turkey, so nothing new there.

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