Analysing American Foreign Policy In The Middle East Politics
The Middle East has been a hot-zone for the United States for decades, and even more so in recent years after the tragic September 11th attacks, which set the stage for the wars the United States is now fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. When looking at the history of American involvement in the Middle East in the last sixty years, it's easy to perceive that the United States has often gotten involved in the region in a manner that favors narrow partisan interests and goes against its own national interest. One example of this is the United States' almost blind support of Israel. This support has helped fan anti-Americanism all over the Middle East. Another, related, example is the United States' involvement in the Iraq War. That involvement, highly unpopular around the world, dealt a severe blow to U.S. prestige and has further fueled anti-American sentiments. The pro-Israel lobby which has convinced many that American interests in the Middle East are nearly identical with those of Israel is the main proponent of the U.S.'s diehard support for Israel. Pro-Israeli neoconservatives constituted a powerful partisan ideological force that was very influential during the presidency of George W. Bush and were the main advocates for the War in Iraq. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the power of these two partisan and related interest groups in the United States so as to understand how they influenced American foreign policy causing the United States to act against its own national interests.
The U.S. has had strong ties with the Israeli state since its foundation in 1948. These ties grew stronger as a result of the 1967 Six-Day war when Israel defeated a coalition of Arab states. In 1970, during Richard Nixon's presidency, the United States indiscriminately sold large stockpiles of weapons to Israel.  Driving the arms sales was Cold War politics. The United States saw Israel as an important ally because many Arab states sided with the Soviet Union. Since its creation, Israel fought and won several wars against its Arab neighbors, and the United States strongly supported the Israeli war effort. After the 1973 Arab oil embargo in response to American aid to Israel during the Yom Kippur War, the United States sought to maintain healthy relationships with oil-rich Arab states such as Saudi Arabia.  Thus, despite U.S. support for Israel, the United States made a strong effort to improve relations with Arab allies and became deeply involved as a mediator in the region, trying to get Israelis and Arabs to sign peace treaties and agreements.  Examples of these are the Camp David Accords in 1978, the Madrid Conference in 1991, the Oslo Accords of 1993, and the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty in 1994.
As a result of these agreements, there is a cold peace between Israel and two of its Arab neighbors, Egypt and Jordan, which are also U.S. allies.  But hostilities between Israel and much of the Arab world continue to this day. A vast majority of Arabs are angered by Israel's enforcement of Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories which is in violation of the Oslo Accords; and Israel's overall harsh treatment of Palestinians.  The United States however, has stood idle, despite the international community's criticism of Israel. Support for Israel amongst American politicians is so strong, that it is considered political suicide for a political candidate to criticize Israel, in part, no doubt, because of the powerful presence of the Israel lobby. 
According to John Mearsheimer, a highly respected international relations expert, the Israel lobby is a powerful coalition of both Jewish and Christian American Zionists, who radically support the state of Israel.  The power of the lobby is most apparent when a political candidate dares to criticize Israel and is then routinely smeared as an anti-Semite or a self-hating Jew if the person is Jewish, according to Mearsheimer. One example Mearsheimer gives of this is the smearing of President Jimmy Carter, for writing his book, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid. Mearsheiemer believes that Carter's book is a "personal plea for renewed American engagement in the peace process", but instead Jimmy Carter has been labeled as an "anti-Semite".  At times, the Israel lobby has led the United States to stand with Israel against the overwhelming opinion of the international community, a position which has damaged its image and position internationally. For instance, when Israel launched a harsh bombing campaign on Lebanon in 2006 in retaliation to a Hezbollah rocket attacks, the United States fully supported Israel despite the harsh criticism Israel received from the international community.  The bombing raids killed an approximate 1,300 Lebanese --most of them civilians-- and severely damaged Lebanese infrastructure; thus, American support for Israel gave a hard blow to the prestige of the pro-American government in Lebanon.  This is one of the many cases of the U.S. losing allies and making unpopular decisions in foreign policy to serve Israeli interest over American national interest. The U.S. silence over the Israeli Jewish settlements in Gaza and the occupied territories has also fueled anti-American sentiment all over the Arab world, exposing the U.S. to potential new terrorist attacks and alienating potential Arab allies. 
Another powerful partisan group that causes the United States to act outside its interests in the Middle East are the neoconservatives. Neo-conservatives have firm definitions of states or entities as either good or evil in the international arena, strongly believe in the importance of maintaining US military superiority in the world, and nurse a "strong distrust of international law and institutions."  Even before 9/11, a group of powerful neocons tried to influence President Bill Clinton by sending him a letter asking him to oust Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, because they saw Iraq as a threat to American national interest in the Middle East ever since he invaded Kuwait.  Neoconservatives are also rabidly pro-Israel and they saw Saddam as a threat to Israel as well.  President Clinton disregarded the letter, but many signers of the letter appeared as highly influential officials in the George W. Bush Administration such as Paul Wolfowitz, Elliot Abrams, John Bolton, Zalmay Khalilzad, Richard Perle, and Donald Rumsfield. 
The 9/11 attacks acted as the necessary push the neocons needed to bring the US to war with Iraq - a country that events later proved had had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks. Nevertheless, the neocons were able to take advantage of the American public's feelings of vulnerability after the 9/11 attacks, arguing, as did National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice said that the United States needed to "take care of threats early" as opposed to taking care of them late, as in the case of Afghanistan.  The Iraq weapons of mass destruction scare was the other element that further pushed the United States into war. Even though the evidence for Iraq having weapons of mass destruction was inconclusive the neocons were able to give the United States a justifiable reason for declaring war on Iraq.  Also, the so-called "One Percent Doctrine," which was first stated on November 1st, 2001 by Vice President Dick Cheeny, said that if an entity poses at least one percent of a threat to the United States, the United States must work to eliminate it. 
Paul Wolfowitz, a neocon who was Deputy Secretary of Defense and a strong voice in favor of war, argued that there was as much as fifty percent, that Iraq had ties to Al-Qaeda and was involved in the 9/11 WTC attacks.  The neocons also touted the United States' military strength and highlighted Iraq's lack of allies in the region.  The neocons also felt that Iraq would somehow easily be able to shake of its ethnic and religious divisions as well as the impact of the many years it suffered under the Saddam dictatorship and quickly evolve into a democracy.  In 2003, the neocons achieved their long sought goal when a coalition led by the United States and the United Kingdom invaded Iraq. Although Saddam was quickly deposed, most analysts would agree that the war has turned into a disaster. The country has been torn by bloody ethnic conflicts and a prolonged insurgency which continues to this day and has claimed 4,282 American soldiers killed and 30,182 wounded, as well as more than 100,000 Iraqi lives. The war has also cost the U.S. billions of dollars. 
The American pattern of following the interests of specific interest groups over that of the United States, has caused the United States to involve itself in a Middle Eastern quagmire. The U.S. Israel lobby which seeks to convince U.S. policy makers that Israel's interests are identical to those of the United States as well as the neoconservatives who pushed for the Iraq War, have caused problems for US policy which have hurt relations with Arab states in the Middle East, fostered anti-Americanism and perhaps encouraged terrorism, and made it much more difficult to settle the Israel-Palestine dispute, which is a cornerstone to stability in the region.
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