The strategic foundations of the US-Israel alliance

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In honor of Israel’s 62nd Independence Day, and in light of President Obama’s repeated claims that US interests are best served by distancing itself from Israel, I decided to write the following essay explaining why a strong Israel is essential for US national security.

Yom Ha’atzmuat Sameach.

 

 

Israel’s status as the US’s most vital ally in the Middle East has been so widely recognized for so long that over the years, Israeli and American leaders alike have felt it unnecessary to explain what it is about the alliance that makes it so important for the US.

 

Today, as the Obama administration is openly distancing the US from Israel while giving the impression that Israel is a strategic impediment to the administration’s attempts to strengthen its relations with the Arab world, recalling why Israel is the US’s most important ally in the Middle East has become a matter of some urgency.

 

Much is made of the fact that Israel is a democracy. But we seldom consider why the fact that Israel is a representative democracy matters. The fact that Israel is a democracy means that its alliance with America reflects the will of the Israeli people. As such, it remains constant regardless of who is power in Jerusalem.

 

All of the US’s other alliances in the Middle East are with authoritarian regimes whose people do not share the pro-American views of their leaders. The death of leaders or other political developments are liable to bring about rapid and dramatic changes in their relations with the US.

 

For instance, until 1979, Iran was one of the US’s closest strategic allies in the region. Owing to the gap between the Iranian people and their leadership, the Islamic revolution put an end to the US-Iran alliance.

 

Egypt flipped from a bitter foe to an ally of the US when Gamal Abdel Nasser died in 1969. Octogenarian President Hosni Mubarak’s encroaching death is liable to cause a similar shift in the opposite direction.

 

Instability in the Hashemite kingdom in Jordan and the Saudi regime could transform those countries from allies to adversaries.

 

Only Israel, where the government reflects the will of the people is a reliable, permanent US ally.

 

 

 

America reaps the benefits of its alliance with Israel every day. As the US suffers from chronic intelligence gaps, Israel remains the US’s most reliable source for accurate intelligence on the US’s enemies in the region.

 

Israel is the US’s only ally in the Middle East that always fights its own battles. Indeed, Israel has never asked the US for direct military assistance in time of war. Since the US and Israel share the same regional foes, when Israel is called upon to fight its enemies, its successes redound to the US’s benefit.

 

Here it bears recalling Israel’s June 1982 destruction of Syria’s Soviet-made anti-aircraft batteries and the Syrian air force. Those stunning Israeli achievements were the first clear demonstration of the absolute superiority of US military technology over Soviet military technology. Many have argued that it was this Israeli demonstration of Soviet technological inferiority that convinced the Reagan administration it was possible to win the Cold War.

 

In both military and non-military spheres, Israeli technological achievements – often developed with US support – are shared with America. The benefits the US has gained from Israeli technological advances in everything from medical equipment to microchips to pilotless aircraft are without peer worldwide.

 

Beyond the daily benefits the US enjoys from its close ties with Israel, the US has three fundamental, permanent, vital national security interests in the Middle East. A strong Israel is a prerequisite for securing all of these interests.

 

America’s three permanent strategic interests in the Middle East are as follows:

 

1 – Ensuring the smooth flow of affordable petroleum products from the region to global consumers through the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Aden and the Suez Canal.

 

2 – Preventing the most radical regimes, sub-state and non-state actors from acquiring the means to cause catastrophic harm.

 

3 – Maintaining the US’s capacity to project its power to the region.

 

A strong Israel is the best guarantor of all of these interests. Indeed, the stronger Israel is, the more secure these vital American interests are. Three permanent and unique aspects to Israel’s regional position dictate this state of affairs.

 

1 – As the first target of the most radical regimes and radical sub-state actors in the region, Israel has a permanent, existential interest in preventing these regimes and sub-state actors from acquiring the means to cause catastrophic harm.

 

 

Israel’s 1981 airstrike that destroyed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor prevented Iraq from acquiring nuclear weapons. Despite US condemnation at the time, the US later acknowledged that the strike was a necessary precondition to the success of Operation Desert Storm ten years later. Richard Cheney – who served as secretary of defense during Operation Desert Storm – has stated that if Iraq had been a nuclear power in 1991, the US would have been hard pressed to eject Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi army from Kuwait and so block his regime from asserting control over oil supplies in the Persian Gulf.

 

2 – Israel is a non-expansionist state and its neighbors know it. In its 62 year history, Israel has only controlled territory vital for its national security and territory that was legally allotted to it in the 1922 League of Nations Mandate which has never been abrogated or superseded.

 

Israel’s strength, which it has used only in self-defense, is inherently non-threatening. Far from destabilizing the region, a strong Israel stabilizes the Middle East by deterring the most radical actors from attacking.

 

In 1970, Israel blocked Syria’s bid to use the PLO to overthrow the Hashemite regime in Jordan. Israel’s threat to attack Syria not only saved the Hashemites then, it has deterred Syria from attempting to overthrow the Jordanian regime ever since.

 

Similarly, Israel’s neighbors understand that its purported nuclear arsenal is a weapon of national survival and hence they view it as non-threatening. This is the reason Israel’s alleged nuclear arsenal has never spurred a regional nuclear arms race.

 

In stark contrast, if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, a regional nuclear arms race will ensue immediately.

 

Although they will never admit it, Israel’s non-radical neighbors feel more secure when Israel is strong. On the other hand, the region’s most radical regimes and non-state actors will always seek to emasculate Israel.

 

3– Since as the Jewish state Israel is the regional bogeyman, no Arab state will agree to form a permanent alliance with it. Hence, Israel will never be in a position to join forces with another nation against a third nation.

 

In contrast, the Egyptian-Syrian United Arab Republic of the 1960s was formed to attack Israel. Today, the Syrian-Iranian alliance is an inherently aggressive alliance against Israel and the non-radical Arab states in the region. Recognizing the stabilizing force of a strong Israel, the moderate states of the region prefer for Israel to remain strong.

 

From the US’s perspective, far from impairing its alliance-making capabilities in the region, by providing military assistance to Israel, America isn’t just strengthening the most stabilizing force in the region. It is showing all states and non-state actors in the greater Middle East it is trustworthy.

 

On the other hand, every time the US seeks to attenuate its ties with Israel, it is viewed as an untrustworthy ally by the nations of the Middle East. US hostility towards Israel causes Israel’s neighbors to hedge their bets by distancing themselves from the US lest America abandon them to their neighboring adversaries.

 

A strong Israel empowers the relatively moderate actors in the region to stand up to the radical actors in the region because they trust Israel to keep the radicals in check. Today’s regional balance of power in which the moderates have the upper hand over the radicals is predicated on a strong Israel.

 

On the other hand, when Israel is weakened the radical forces are emboldened to threaten the status quo. Regional stability is thrown asunder. Wars become more likely. Attacks on oil resources increase. The most radical sub-state actors and regimes are emboldened.

 

To the extent that the two-state solution assumes that Israel must contract itself to within the indefensible 1949 ceasefire lines, and allow a hostile Palestinian state allied with terrorist organizations to take power in the areas it vacates, the two-state solution is predicated on making Israel weak and empowering radicals. In light of this, the two-state solution as presently constituted is antithetical to America’s most vital strategic interests in the Middle East.

 

When we bear in mind the foundations for the US’s alliance with Israel, it is obvious that US support for Israel over the years has been the most cost-effective national security investment in post-World War II US history.

 

 

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23 Comments

  • Emile 04/19/2010 at 21:19

    I read your article with much interest. We all know the facts you mentioned in it. Maybe some will add some knowledge to their memory archive. The question is how to convince our president and the decision makers in the administration, when they have preconceptions or maybe prejudices or a different perception. Maybe the advisers think they know it better than the Israelis and are counseling the president and the administration that way. Unfortunately many American Jews today have an erroneous conception and they believe that this solution is the best for Israel without knowing the Middle East and without having any military experience. The writer of these lines passed WW2 and knows these situations very well. Anyway, I congratulate you for opening the eyes of your readers, especially of those in the US.

    Reply
  • Walter 04/19/2010 at 21:46

    The USA emerged from WWII as a great world power.
    Successive US administrations since that time have wasted, and squandered the ‘treasure’, of the power, and respect that the USA *earned* [from the time of its formative years, and in the wake of its sacrifices in WWII].
    The world has changed, for the USA, and for Israel.
    Though Israel may still feel that it needs the USA, i believe that recent US administrations have seen [come to realise!] the limit of their ‘reach’ and influence, and power.
    The ‘princes’ of the USA, once more realise, that they are mere men.
    Today, the USA has its own very real problems.
    Today, the US, and its people, are coming to see how the ‘chance’ of the past, was squandered.
    By themselves [US citizens, and US administrations].
    9/11 changed the world.
    The effective response of the USA, in the wake of 9/11 [and that disaster which is ‘Iraq’], has been to radically change the worldview of the USA and its people.
    The USA as a nation, used to be a very determined, if overly proud, ‘strong man’.
    But today, the USA has morphed before our eyes, into nothing more, than ‘a big girl’, who has seen something ‘unpleasant’.
    Israel, buckle down.
    You stand alone in this world.
    Don’t look to the USA for help.
    Look within yourself.

    Reply
  • DR WILLS 04/19/2010 at 22:45

    While all of your points are valid and important, yet none of those qualify as being the most important factor in the Israel/U.S. alliance. Rather, by far the most important factor in our erstwhile mutually friendly and beneficial alliance has been the fact that our respective national identities were predicated upon a shared ideological foundation, that is, the Word of G-d. Few so-called intellectuals or academics will acknowledge as true, though it is true, that Western Civilization is rooted neither in ancient Greek or Roman cultures, nor yet in supposedly Renaissance-period ideas, but in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. Only so long as we hold to the moral precepts revealed therein, may we hope to sustain the innumerable socioeconomic advantages which, as history demonstrates, belong only to those whose G-d is the LORD.

    Reply
  • Carol 04/20/2010 at 1:00

    Here’s a perspective: “In response to the recent ridiculous treatment Israel has gotten from the Obama administration, a group of about 50 retired United States generals and admirals put together the following letter urging him as well as Congress and the general American public to recognize how truly intertwined Israel’s success is with America’s. Here, is the unedited letter, directly from the officers”
    “Israel as a Security Asset for the United States: Statement by 50 Retired U.S. Flag and General Officers”
    http://ronmossad.blogspot.com/2010/04/israel-as-security-asset-for-united.html

    Reply
  • David Francis 04/20/2010 at 3:09

    Selah! to Caroline and Dr. Wills.
    Honestly, if not for Israel the United States would never have happened. Self government would never have been viewed a viable option if not for the Torah and the time of the Judges. The Scriptures convinced our founding fathers this was G-d’s plan for governance. Many of our early laws and ordinances were variations of laws from the Torah. Thanks be to G-d and the House of Jacob for any excellence in the American way.
    As for the so called two state solution, there is already a THREE state solution. The land formerly known as Palestine, outlined in the Balfour Declaration of 1917, included what is now Jordan, and Lebanon. Syria was part of the French Mandate and did NOT include the Golan Heights.
    I hope everyone had a happy Yom HaAtzmaut. Here in Iowa it was scarcely noticed. I sang HaTikvah and rejoiced with Jerusalem that she is one year closer to glory!

    Reply
  • Polymath 04/20/2010 at 5:17

    First, thank you, for it is precisely this kind of explanation that is required, now.I think, sometimes, those with a certain amount of knowledge forget most people do not have but very little.Many, who support Israel receive one negative message after another, usually by ignorant and lazy talking-heads, who have become propaganda parrots, only interested in sustaining their positions and paycheck.
    What you depict as the “moderate” Muslim position in the region is not what is the apparent understanding of Obama and DC, despite the fact, he thinks he does and is carrying the Muslim Islamofascists’ water, so to speak, not that of one who truly understands the Muslim/Arab ME mind. So, he falls for the uninformed think tanks filled with anti_Semitic
    individuals, who prepare reports and agreements, for these Muslim “outreach” recommendations.Naturally, this agrees with his own brainwashed opinions.But he does this in the name of America(our name), while the Majority favors Israel across the board.
    However, something is finally happening in the US.Non-Jewish friends of mine, a few who hold attitudes not always kindly towards the Jews, are now worried about the Obama Administration in relation to Israel.They understand the importance of Israel, despite the fact they are no longer observant, or practice their faith.I say that, because it has nothing to do with a Faith. It has everything to do with Freedom, the US, its past associations with Israel, and how imperiled Israel is, and our security.How does he say Israel’s conflict is more important than Iran developing nuclear bombs? It is Israel’s importance for many reasons.Don’t forget, many own stocks and understand Israel’s contribution to
    the US Economy.That means trade and oil and gas, high tech equipment and its development, and our military development,pharmaceuticals and Medical supplies, etc., and maintaining the trade routes open.
    That perspective, usually called our National Interest, which is required for our National Security interests,is rarely discussed.Like it, or not, that is an important component for progress and a Future for the Free World.Since the US Science Czar, recently, said something to the effect,we (in America) can’t expect to always excel, or be first, in the Sciences, Israel’s importance to our economy where Science,brains,technology,and research,are priorities, can only increase.
    I think, the US has to be almost bombarded with ads in as many media and high tech outlets as possible, to relate
    all Israel is about to the Americans, including its history of bringing modernization and development to Palestine in context.I am not talking about addressing just the Jewish population, but to all the various groups. Do versions in Spanish, French, German, Russian, Polish,Chinese, etc.,explaining what and how it is that Israeli technologies, industrial products, agriculture and its practices, hydroponics and solar energy, other inventions and innovations, are part of their everyday life. Market messages for children- child to child.Teens. Young adults.The college market.
    Jewish day schools can have mutual projects ,if they don’t already, over the Internet. There are countless ways to bring together American and Israeli kids to build the Future with Hope.I don’t believe, any other nation does such a thing with America, yet.In other words, start to appeal to various market sectors on their levels and with appropriate topics.Children from both countries really need this kind of ongoing campaign.It would counter Obama’s infiltration into the schools, as well.
    Let’s remember, and someone must remind Obama, he is not an elected representative in Israel.As Commander and Chief, he should know how dependent we are on Israel to be able to run our wars, especially, in the ME. If our oil supply is cut-off by Islamofascist groups that he is championing, he is going to have a hell of a time conducting our ME wars, not to mention the US and its Economy. The US cannot be permitted to force Israel to strip its security and sovereignty and delegitimize it, to create a Palestinian state.It’s insane, but, then, again, anti-Semitism -Hate- negates thinking, causes emotional and mental deterioration, and ultimately destroys all who are afflicted with it to the extent it takes over their approach and focus.Oddly, Samantha Powers, who is one of the foremost proponents of invading Israel to create a state for the Palestinians, is a so called genocide authority.
    See Monday’s WSJ editorial, “The View From Jerusalem.”

    Reply
  • Deborah 04/20/2010 at 6:51

    Thankyou Caroline, for once again, telling it like it is…and so eloquently , it’s so simple. Why don’t people get it? Why doesn’t America get it? Her administration will continue along their current way to their own peril…and perhaps that of the entire US nation. I think the American people will have to wake up & stand up if anything is to change in America in regards to Israel. As far as Israel is concerned stand firm, give up nothing, make no concession, not land or sovereignty or right to defend under any threatening circumstances. It feels foolish to even write such a thing …as if it were in question…oh that’s right,it is, to some.
    There are more with you than against..many more.

    Reply
  • Ron Grandinetti 04/20/2010 at 8:56

    Caroline, you are right on and the reason why a majority of Americans have a love affair with Israel although not always reflected by our leaders, especially the present president.
    It is with extreme importance this relationship never quiver regardless of who or what party is in power.
    The comment by Dr Wills, “Western Civilization is rooted in Judeo-Christian Scriptures”
    Yes, and it is important to protect these principals which are constantly being attacked world wide by the secular progressives along with the liberal left academics.
    God/G-d bless America and God/G-d bless Israel.

    Reply
  • Andre 04/20/2010 at 9:30

    I think there is a fundamental flaw in your logic, Carolyn.
    If representative democracy means that the leaders of a country reflect the opinion of the people, then why did Americans elect a man who has been so blatantly anti-semitic for so long based on the company he has been keeping? Nothing BHO is doing now with regards to Israel is a surprise. His political connections in the past, his statements and his votes in Congress were here for all to see. Yet, in spite of this evidence, the American people, a friend of Israel, voted for this man.
    So, in my mind, it would seem that people in fact weigh the pros and cons of their leader and make a decision based on which way the balance tilts. Americans decided that BHO had more plusses than minusses and decided that if that meant that Israel would be thrown under the bus, then so be it.
    I don’t believe in fundamental people-to-people friendships. They are mere tactical stances based on immediate interests, not long term trends. This is why France, England and Germany have loved/hated each other over the course of history. This is why I believe that there is a fundamental change in the way Americans feel about Israel right now. They see that the friendship has not yielded obvious benefits (it is easy to forget all the high tech stuff etc…) and so they are thinking that perhaps BHO is onto something when cultivating the love of Muslim countries.
    I hope I am wrong but I think I am right.

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  • Steve 04/20/2010 at 9:53

    Since when has the U.S. government ever been concerned about cost-effectiveness, especially now that it is spending trillions in bailing out rich corporate CEOs? Neither has the U.S. government been concerned about cost-effectiveness in pursuing pro-Muslim policies continuously during liberal and conservative administrations alike for the last 62 years.

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  • Adam Khan 04/20/2010 at 14:25

    Great piece — cogent, concise.

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  • Scott Rothstein 04/20/2010 at 14:40

    Caroliine,
    Your point about cost effective security is underscored by the fact that Obama requested an additional Three Billion Dollars ($3,000,000,000) to fund a mere thirty thousand troops(30,ooo) FOR ONE YEAR’s Service to bolster Iraq’s defense!

    Reply
  • independentpatriot 04/20/2010 at 15:49

    The United States has always supported Israel because it was a trategic asset. First againt communism and the encrouchment of the Soviet Union into the oil rich gulf and now as a bulwark agains the radical islamists. What Israel has shed in blood over the years so the US can learn about the armament capabilities of their enemies is worth far more than any money loan or grant. Too bad that the Obama adminsitration is too penned down in its own rhetoric and underlying anti-semitism to understand what is truly at stake in the Middle East.
    BTW Happy 62nd birthday Israel. Chag Yom Haatzmaut Sameach

    Reply
  • zsa zsa 04/20/2010 at 16:43

    Andre,
    I think the flaw in your thinking is BO never stated his true intentions. He stated many times he would be a friend to Israel, and many Jews were reassured by Jews associated with Obama that he would be a steadfast friend. So many people were misled even though the obvious was staring them in the face.
    But people are realizing he is not a friend of Israel’s and they are not happy.

    Reply
  • noach.stern 04/20/2010 at 21:17

    Thank you, Caroline, once again for your ability to articulate the most important – and usually implicit or unacknowledged – ideas about Israel, the Middle East and America. Chazak ve-Amatz!

    Reply
  • naomir 04/21/2010 at 8:17

    Caroline, thank you once again for putting facts in their proper perspective. I continue to be amazed at my fellow American Jews who not only didn’t see the inherent danger in voting Obama into office, but still make excuses for him and his coterie of advisers. Israel is essentially on her own, but with G-d’s help has persevered. May we continue to reap His blessings. Am Yisrael Chai.

    Reply
  • Marc Handelsman, USA 04/21/2010 at 12:42

    Besides the Marshall Plan, support for Israel has been one of the most cost-effective national security investments in post-World War II US history. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration doesn’t seem to grasp that concept. Not supporting Israel against its enemies would be a major foreign policy blunder for the State Department. This state of affairs will continue, until President Obama moves back to Chicago on January 20, 2013. American taxpayers receive a good return on their investment by supporting Israel. And Israel needs to prepare for when America cuts off assistance.

    Reply
  • solomon2.wordpress.com 04/21/2010 at 13:20

    Obama has made it clear that he doesn’t care; officially he’s seeking sanctions on Iran and so doesn’t want Israel or the U.S. to take military action against it; unofficially nobody expects sanctions to work, and Obama has simply ruled out any military or political activity to upset the mullahs’ regime. Ninety years of America’s “no more empires” policy tossed out on a whim. Unless reversed – quickly – damage to America and Israel, both physical and moral, will follow quickly.

    Reply
  • MGibson 04/22/2010 at 10:48

    BHO was elected POTUS not because of his stance toward Israel but because of Bush fatigue and white guilt about past sins which the race agitators (BHO being a member in good standing) exacerbated. BHO’s election was seen among whites as a catharsis but in reality a different dynamic has occurred. Those who disagree with Obama’s policies are tainted as racist by his supporters. A majority of whites now do not feel guilty as much as animated in response to Obama’s actions on a whole range of issues, the Israel question not being the least.

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  • Cheryl Mav 04/22/2010 at 11:04

    Thank you, Caroline, for another insightful commentary!
    Both the United States and Israel are in grave danger due to lack of American leadership at such a crucial juncture in history. Obama deliberately lied to American Jews; Obama lacks respect for constitutional law; Obama was never raised with the same values that the majority of Americans take as their natural inheritance.
    Obama is a divider, not a uniter: he is sparking a Jewish war in America between those who love Israel and those who vilify her. Obama’s elevation of J-Street (Juden Strasse) highlights his efforts as a divider of people.
    Israel, unfortunately, has to realize that the seat in the Oval Office is empty, at least for the time being. Their help will come from Almighty G-d and from within. Israelis must remain strong and hopeful; our situation, though dire, will change. Hopefully, Americans have learned a lesson: there is no place for affirmative action in the voting booth. And hopefully, Israel will learn a lesson, too – to use the resources at hand to build and strengthen their defense.
    We will not abandon you, Israel, especially in your hour of need. Happy Yom Ha’atzmaut, “ad million v’me’a etzrim” – until 1,000,120!
    Chazak v’amatz!

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  • T. A. Speaker 04/23/2010 at 0:33

    Everything you write is correct, Caroline, but as others here have pointed out, sadly irrelevant. There are three possible interpretations of BHO’s behavior toward Israel.

    1. He’s a people’s republic kind of guy Hell bent on transforming the US from a representative democracy to a dictatorship of the proletariat. As such, and like Lenin, he will avoid the distraction of foreign affairs — implementing a revolution is an all-consuming undertaking.
    2. He’s a black supremacist, an anti-Semite who views the Arab-Israeli conflict through the prism of white, European exploitation of non-white, indigenous peoples — hence his sympathy for the Palestinians, whom he regards as the legitimate occupants of what is now Israel.
    3. He’s a closet Muslim as imagined by some on the Right and regards Israel’s enemies as his natural allies.

    These possibilities are not mutually exclusive. I regard the first two as near certainties; the third, as at least likely. Note that if even one of them holds true, appealing to BHO’s sense of American self-interest is beside the point. The only self-interest Obama cares about is his own, said interest being intimately bound up with his “transformist” agenda.
    One day America will again stand with its natural ally, Israel. But not today. For the American people, who are just now beginning to recognize the true nature of “Hope and Change,” the question is not if Obama’s America will stand with Israel. Rather, the question is whether Israel will stand with the American people in their righteous effort to resist totalitarianism. Israel can best do this by being brave, strong and independent, by doing what it must to survive.

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  • yuval.hatikva 04/23/2010 at 5:38

    In 1970, Israel blocked Syria’s bid to use the PLO to overthrow the Hashemite regime in Jordan. Israel’s threat to attack Syria not only saved the Hashemites then, it has deterred Syria from attempting to overthrow the Jordanian regime ever since.
    The worst mistake we ever made. Jordan is Arab transjordan and with the PLO in control a transfer by buyout to Jordan would have solved the Arab refugee crisis. Israel fell prey to Kissinger’s machinations, time and again and sealed its fate for eternal bloodshed.
    Next time. let them take the Hashemites down

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  • A.J. 10/13/2011 at 6:57

    The problem I see with most people that support a pro-israel alliance is it is based on the premisise that America belongs in the middle east..
    Any mention of oil, makes it even more shaddy, like america somehow has the RIGHT to THEIR oil. Which gives them the right to be mad at us..
    If we would’ve spent all of this money, on mass transit, and alternative energy, the money would’ve served our interests more then on TANKS, JETS, and BOMBS..
    But our culture are more likely to support WAR before *gasps* SOCIALISM!

    Reply

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