Saturday, February 05, 2011

Why Arab dictatorships are not preventing war on Israel – they stopped fighting it because it’s military has always been stronger than all of theirs

One of the arguments given as an excuse for US support for dictatorships is that these dictatorships have supposedly prevented war with Israel and that Israel could be “threatened” by a possible Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt. This argument makes no sense because the same dictatorships went to war with Israel repeatedly in 1948, 1967 and 1973 – and only stopped after that because they realised that even all of them combined had no hope of defeating Israel’s much stronger military (see e.g Israeli historian Avi Shlaim’s ‘The Iron Wall’) and do not want to risk a nuclear counter-attack (Israel having had nuclear weapons for decades) or the US military joining any war on the Israeli side if an Israeli defeat looked possible.

Mubarak’s predecessor Sadat only decided to make peace with Israel after the Arab states were decisively defeated for the third time in their third war with Israel in 1973. (In those negotiations full recognition of Israel was not made a precondition for talks the way it has been with Hamas, as Israeli professor Yossi Alpher has pointed out.  Sadat was subsequently assassinated after Islamic clerics placed a fatwa on him and replaced by Mubarak (1).

Since then the gap in military strength between Israel and it’s Arab neighbours has only grown greater, due partly to US military aid from 1967 on and partly to Israel strengthening it’s economic base and so it’s military research and production programmes by using US aid and the profits from tourism and from annexed agricultural land and water supplies in the West Bank. Egypt under Mubarak has had significant military aid and arms sales from the US, but not nearly as much as Israel.

SIPRI statistics show Israel’s military spending  in 2009 was over $14 billion, compared to under $4 billion for Egypt – and Egypt has the strongest military of any Arab country. Israel’s annual military spending has consistently exceeded that of all it’s Arab neighbours – Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt – combined (CSIS 2009 page 32 = (2)).

It also has more operational high quality combat aircraft than it’s four neighbours combined (CSIS 2009 page 24, Fig 15 = (3)) Israeli air superiority was decisive in the 1967 and 1973 wars.

 The spending gap doesn’t show how great the gap in military strength is either because the Israeli military has far more advanced military technology, both that provided by the US and the tech it’s developed itself.

So there is no reason to believe that elected governments in Arab states would be any more suicidal than their unelected predecessors – and so they would no more likely to let themselves in for certain defeat, humiliation and large numbers of deaths by going to war on Israel.

They would certainly be unlikely to continue the dictatorships’ alliances with Israel, but that is a long way from them being a “threat” to it. Even governments which are hostile to one another – like the US and Venezuela, continue large scale trade in oil – and even Iran has been keen to continue trading with the US. US firms have likewise continued to trade with Iran through subsidiaries to avoid US sanctions (including subsidiaries of Cheney’s Halliburton even as he was calling for war on Iraq and Iran).

As Mohamed ElBaradei has said “a durable peace can only be between democracies and not between dictators.” (4).

The military aid given to Egypt supposedly “secures peace” and that given to Israel similarly supposedly ensures it is safe against threats.

The reality is that military aid to Egypt is primarily about propping up a dictatorship that largely does as the US government tells it, combined with a US government subsidy to their own arms companies – as most of the military aid is spent on buying US arms.

Military aid and arms sales to Israel are similarly a subsidy to US arms firms – and also due to the strength of the Israel lobby in the US.

They most certainly don’t encourage peace though, as the main cause of most wars is not that Israel is weak and threatened, but that it’s military is stronger than those of the rest of the Middle East combined, encouraging it’s governments to launch full scale wars on the Palestinian Authority and Lebanon and to refuse to make any concessions whatsoever in negotiations with the Palestinians.

Photo at top of blog - Israeli Air force F15s from Machine Wrench blog

(1) = Forward 20 Oct 2006 ‘Preconditions for a Problematic Partner’,

(2) = Cordesman, Anthony H. , Burke, Arleigh A. & Nerguiziam Aram  29 Jun 2010 ‘The Arab Israeli Military Balance’, Center for Strategic Studies and International Studies (CSIS) 2010, , page 32

(3) = As (2) above, page 24, Figure 15

(4) = Independent 01 Feb 2011 ‘Mohamed ElBaradei: The man who would be President’,

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