by Michael Doliner
(Swans - April 7, 2008) Over at Counterpunch they are having a lively debate (1) about Israel and Palestine. Michael Neumann argued that the one-state solution was impossible and the two-state solution perhaps slightly possible. He admitted that the two-state solution was unjust. Others seemed to think that the one-state solution was possible. They marshaled other arguments. Neumann admitted that the outcome of their debate would have miniscule effect on whatever finally happens. I would like to propose a third alternative: the no-state solution. The argument at Counterpunch seemed to turn on whether Israel would accept or could be made to accept the one-state solution. The no-state solution has the advantage of being completely independent of just what anyone can be made to accept or who is right or wrong. Events themselves will bring about the no-state solution regardless of what anyone wants.
First let us take a look at another interesting article at Counterpunch by John Goekler. Goekler argues that Iraq has morphed from a fourth generation war (4GW) into a fifth generation war (5GW). Goekler describes the characteristics of the new baby:
While 4GW is "messy" in that it primarily attacks soft targets, it is "neat" in terms of grand strategy. It entails two well-defined sides, each of whom wishes to emerge as, or maintain, the recognized government. The battle is for "hearts and minds" and winning is defined as controlling the levers of state power. Insurgents try to delegitimize the state by disrupting delivery of services and security, while counterinsurgents attempt to shore up the state through "armed social work."
5GW is a whole other kettle of fish. In 5GW, the goal is not to seize the levers of power so much as it is to weaken or "hollow out" state control, in order to fill the ensuing vacuum. The actors are not necessarily political movements, or even recognized groups. Their motivation is as likely to be micro-economic as ideological, and may be social or -- most likely -- some blend of the above. To conflate these under any label, be it "jihadists," "losers and dead-enders" or "militias" is to misunderstand them completely. (2)
In fact, the most fundamental "organizing principles" of 5GW groups may well be protection, social identity and simple entertainment.
The practitioners of 5GW carry on on the cheap. Suicide bombers, car bombs, and IEDs cost a pittance compared to Abrams Tanks, stealth bombers and the like. Now Joseph E. Stiglitz, an economist, recently published a book called The Three Trillion Dollar War about the costs to the United States of the Iraq War. 5GW is cheap for one side and extravagantly expensive for the other. For this reason alone the United States has lost in Iraq. Sooner or later the United States will have to pull out of Iraq and leave the Middle East to sort out its future, such as it is. But given the gaggle of presidential hopefuls this is not likely to happen for some time and war will drag on at considerable additional expense and misery all around. We can only hope that it ends before one of the other of the stupid whackpersons running for president decided to bomb Iran. Be that as it may, the United States will pull out of the Middle East some time in the relatively near future.
The extravagant cost of the war added to the collapse of the careless and profoundly inequitable US economy will leave the U.S. broke. The credit crisis, national and trade debts, energy dependency, obsolete and inappropriate infrastructure, and the loss of manufacturing, to name only a few problems, will leave the United States impoverished and confused. The U.S. will abandon the empire of 700+ bases it has strewn across the world. Paul Craig Roberts, another economist, comments:
The fact of the matter is that the U.S. is bankrupt. David M. Walker, Comptroller General of the U.S. and head of the Government Accountability Office, in his December 17, 2007, report to the US Congress on the financial statements of the US government noted that "the federal government did not maintain effective internal control over financial reporting (including safeguarding assets) and compliance with significant laws and regulations as of September 30, 2007." In everyday language, the US government cannot pass an audit. (3)
I sometimes wonder if the bankrupt "superpower" will be able to scrape together the resources to bring home the troops stationed in its hundreds of bases overseas, or whether they will just be abandoned.
When at last the United States can no longer borrow to maintain its Empire it will experience a severe contraction in its economy that will force a reevaluation of everything. There is a chance that for the first time in fifty years the public might wake up, but more likely, given American inclinations, the U.S. will look for a scapegoat. Since the economic collapse will accompany loss in the war, one good candidate would be liberals, or progressives, or whatever you want to call them. Just as the war party blamed the loss in Vietnam on those who "tied our hands," so now they will blame the "isolationists" who didn't want to pursue the Iraq War even longer, perhaps for McCain's hundred years.
But at a certain point the war party must lose this argument. The U.S. cannot afford to continue the wars and the military-industrial complex the wars enrich. It is just too expensive. Poverty, if nothing else, will eventually beat it into the thick heads of Americans that we cannot afford military adventures, or a military-industrial complex, or, really, a standing army. When that happens those things will go, the war party itself will disappear, and Americans will understand, or at least listen to a story that tells, why grandiose military expeditions are wrong.
Of course, being what we are, when that time comes America may look for another scapegoat, and there are good reasons to fear that that scapegoat might be Israel. If the first scapegoat is blamed for the loss of the wars, the second will be blamed for having gotten into them. And for that honor Israel is already nominated. There is plenty of talk about how we are fighting the war in Iraq for Israel. What will happen when the U.S. has to admit that it has not only lost that war but that it should never have fought it in the first place? Most Americans already believe, not that it was a mismanaged good war, but that it was wrong from the start. (4) But Americans are constitutionally incapable of blaming themselves. They have to find someone else.
But even if the U.S. does not turn against Israel it is likely to reevaluate the "special relationship" with Israel given the new American impoverishment, the withdrawal from the empire of bases, and the subsequent loss of control of Middle East oil. Israeli military power played a part in the American protection racket in the Middle East, but after the coming American debacle, Israel will be at best a superfluous asset, and at worst a liability. With the empire of bases the United States could threaten Arab countries to make them obey, but without the Empire the U.S. will have to offer the Arabs incentives. Does anyone think one of those incentives might be abandonment of the special relationship with Israel?
The United States now supports Israel with over $3 billion in various forms of aid yearly, most of it military aid. Without this aid Israel could not maintain its own huge military expenditures. Even more important, several times in the past US military aid bailed Israel out of extremely precarious situations, especially in the Yom Kippur War. If the United States ends or severely curtails this aid, Israel will have to be less aggressive.
A large portion of Israel's economy is "security" based. (5) If the U.S. can no longer maintain its military-industrial complex will Israel be able to continue with its own? It is not likely. The United States is Israel's largest customer for security gadgets. If this market evaporates Israel is not likely to find another.
But Israel, without its "security based" economy and aid from the United States, will not be able to maintain its high-tech, Westernized standard of living. And if Israel cannot offer highly educated Western Jews the kinds of opportunities they expect, they will emigrate. Already emigration is a problem for Israel. (6) Israel's more highly-educated population, having shown an inclination to emigrate because of the current situation, will drain away with the loss of high-tech jobs, and Israel will gradually become what a more modest economy can afford, an oil-poor Middle Eastern state. This in turn will likely affect the support that Diaspora Jews will give to Israel. (7) For with fewer Western Jews Israel will be more alien to them. Ariel Sharon noted the Diaspora drift away from identification with Israel when he said, "We're moving from being brothers to being cousins." (8) Also, with the loss of a large portion of the more highly educated Westernized population, Israel will look less like a Western country somehow located in the Middle East and more like a Middle Eastern country. But then it will lose its original raison d'être as a refuge for Western Jews. At that point Israel is in danger of losing its way completely.
Such an Israel will still have enormous military power, for it will have retained its nuclear arsenal. None of the Arab states will offer it any threat. But if it has, in the meantime pulverized Lebanon and Syria, 5GW will then be at its doorstep, and high-tech instruments of destruction are useless in 5GW. Suicide bombers, already common among Palestinians, will also filter through Israel's Lebanese and Syrian borders. Israel will be able to keep them at bay, but at enormous expense. To eradicate this wasp's nest Israel will have to invade Lebanon and Syria, where it will find itself in much the situation the U.S. finds itself in now in Iraq. Israel will not be able to bear this expense. The Israeli military is armed with missiles, tanks, aircraft, and other expensive high-tech gadgets, just as the US army is. It is not prepared for 5GW. To be sure nothing could prepare it for 5GW, for as John Goekler asserts:
The hard reality is, Iraq is no longer a counterinsurgency campaign. It is a hostile occupation in a 5GW environment. And while not all counterinsurgency campaigns fail, all hostile occupations ultimately do. The question is only over what time frame.
The Israeli population is fanatically nationalistic and would probably hold out in another Masada rather than allow Israel to become a non-Jewish state. But those will not be the alternatives. Faced not with an army but with a swarm of wasps, and gradual impoverishment, they will slowly be worn down. Goekler points out that 5GW blends seamlessly with what we are in the habit of calling organized crime. Many 5GW organizations are much like the American Mafia and even like American street gangs. 5GW organizations are not trying to take over the state. They hollow it out, as Goekler puts it, but this is not their intention. They want money, fame, or, as Goekler mentions, entertainment. Israel has its own Mafia or crime organizations. The members of these organizations may be fiercely nationalistic, but they will still do business with their counterparts anywhere. For business will not seem anti-Israeli. American organized crime was not Italian, as it is usually shown, but multiethnic, drawing from every poor immigrant group, including Jews (Meyer Lanski and "Bugsy" Siegal). Many thought of themselves as loyal Americans. Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, and other presidents hobnobbed with organized crime figures. (9) Everybody did business with everybody.
As the state weakens, these organizations will strengthen. In reality they are nothing more than a feudal system that is always in danger of reviving in the midst of a modern nation state. Like Iraq now, Israel could gradually be "hollowed out" so that it would exist as a state in name only, controlled in reality by crime organizations and militias of every color and stripe. This is the no-state solution.
When we see the criminal machinations in the highest places in the U.S. this does not look so implausible. For the United States is being "hollowed out" in just this way. Shorn of its Constitution, its government run by obvious criminals, its people betrayed, the United States, when the economic convulsion occurs, is just as likely to disintegrate into local crime organizations as was the Soviet Union. For what will hold it together?
From the point of view of Israeli interests the present Israeli policy is precisely the wrong one. Rafael Eitan, while he was Israeli chief of staff in 1983, famously said, "The settlements will be established, and all the Arabs can do about it is scurry around like doped cockroaches in a bottle." (10) In this picturesque way he described the Israeli strategy of smashing the Arab states and destroying their political organization. The idea was that without state organization the Arabs would be helpless. All they would be able to do is run around in a disorganized and impotent fashion. This is still the Israeli strategy today and explains their bellicose attitude towards Iran and Syria.
But we have seen in Iraq just how wrong this is. Modern warfare has provided cheap effective weapons to small 5GW bands. The Iraqi resistance is now far more effective than it would have been had the U.S. preserved the Iraqi state apparatus. For the state has something to lose. You can threaten it effectively. 5GW organizations are, as Goekler puts it, "shape shifters." They possess and control little. They have shown that against a technologically superior enemy the state is just a burden, its weapons ineffective and its infrastructure just a hostage. The only way you can try to take what little 5GW organizations have away from them is to occupy the country, and that just provides them with targets. While the occupying force is trying to stamp out this multitude of organizations vast wealth is draining out of its state treasury.
The Lebanese state is on the verge of collapse right now. It just postponed a presidential election for the seventeenth time. (11) Both Syria and Jordan are bursting with Iraqi refugees who are destabilizing them. Were Israel to attack Syria it too could collapse, spreading 5GW to Israel's borders. Jordan would probably follow. The failed state that is now Iraq would spread to the edge of Israel like a stain threatening to engulf it. Israel would wither under the stinging little attacks that would come from all sides.
The Great Game in the Middle East is over. The policy Israel and the U.S. are now pursuing is disastrous -- for Israel and the United States. Anyone who is pro Israel should oppose present Israeli policy, just as any American patriot should oppose its mad and treasonous government's policies. Were someone with half a brain to come to power in Israel or the U.S., she would pursue a policy of stabilization in the Middle East as a first priority. But both countries, blinded by national paranoia and corrupt political cultures, are unable to make sane political choices, and are headed for Armageddon or "death by a thousand cuts."
To recapitulate the argument: Partially because of the expense of the war in Iraq, but for many deeper reasons, the U.S. will soon suffer a massive financial convulsion that will cause it to reevaluate everything, including its relationship with Israel. Withdrawal of aid to Israel, and contraction of the Israeli military-industrial complex will shrink the Israeli economy, drive out the highly educated Westernized Jews, alienate Diaspora Jews in the United States, and undermine Israel's raison d'être. If at that time 5GW comes to Israel through Lebanon and/or Syria it will bleed Israel and allow its current criminal elements and many new ones to flourish, hollowing out the Israeli state. Thus the no-state solution. I do not say this is a good thing, only a likely one.
1. http://counterpunch.org/neumann03102008.html (back)
2. http://www.counterpunch.org/goekler03152008.html (back)
3. http://www.counterpunch.org/roberts03182008.html (back)
4. http://www.counterpunch.org/roberts03182008.html (back)
5. http://fanonite.org/2007/06/27/noami-klein-on-israels-military-industrial-complex/ (back)
6. http://stlouis.ujcfedweb.org/page.html?ArticleID=144274 (back)
7. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3128839,00.html (back)
8. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C05E6DB1E3CF936A2575BC0A9629C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all (back)
9. See The Money and the Power by Sally Denton (back)
10. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,923555-5,00.html (back)
11. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2008-03/25/content_7852173.htm (back)
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