The Defense Budget and Israel
THERE is a huge and increasingly notorious contradiction at the very core of mainstream American Jewish political attitudes. The vast majority of American Jews passionately support Israel’s struggle for survival and’ are permanently concerned for its security. At the same time, most American Jews are liberals, and qua liberals, they are prominent in calling for the “reordering of national priorities”-a slogan which in practice translates into the attempt to make further cuts in the defense budget and further to reduce America’s general activism overseas. The great artillery battles of 1915 sufficed to persuade even the most dashing and bird-brained of cavalry officers that modern war was not just a matter of guts and good breeding for man and horse: seeing a goodly share of the national product flying overhead in the shells of each artillery barrage, scarcely anyone could miss the essential connection between industrial capacity and military capability. By contrast, even in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War-the display of American deterrence in action and the airlift-many liberals-Jews and non-Jews alike-who are loud in their verbal support for Israel still act in the political arena as if there were no connection between Israel’s security and the level of American military preparedness. Quite recently, in New York State, a good many liberals, among them many Jews, did their level best to send a man to the Senate whose platform placed equal stress on strong support for Israel and a 25 percent cut in the defense budget. Oddly enough, Ramsey Clark found himself in considerable difficulties with Jews of all stripes because of some insufficiently ambiguous language on the Palestinians and their claims. But while a
wide variety of views on the Palestinians-including all the different positions imputed to Ramsey Clark-are perfectly compatible with firm support for Israel’s security, such support is not at all consistent with any drastic cut in the defense budget, let alone Mr. Clark’s 25 per cent.
About the Author
Edward N. Luttwak is senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.