The Amazing Decline of America’s Special Relationships
Why the new (old) governments in Israel and Britain bode ill for what once were Washington’s most important alliances.BY DAVID ROTHKOPF MAY 8, 2015facebooktwittergoogle-plusredditemail
Perhaps the fact that puts this decline in clearest focus is the steep decline in the size of the British Army. With cuts slated to take it from 102,000 to 82,000 regulars and a recent report suggesting that further cuts could reduce it in size to 50,000 within a few years, we face the prospect that in the not too distant future the military that once conquered the world will be roughly the same size as the New York Police Department. (A promise of Cameron and the Tories was that they would stop such cuts from taking place, but whether Britain’s financial health — more on that later — will permit them to honor that pledge is another matter.)
Similarly, whereas a generation ago Israel was seen as central to U.S. Mideast policy, today, while it is still America’s most important and best-supported ally in the region,
*events have undercut its importance in practical terms.
Once it was key to the U.S. Cold War strategy in the region, but the Cold War ended.
Once the Middle East was more important to the United States as a source of energy, but that is clearly less true today than at any time since the Second World War.
Once the Israel-Palestine conflict was seen as central to all the problems and geopolitical issues of the region; now that is far from being the case.
Indeed, that issue, once number one among U.S. regional priorities, might have a hard time making the top ten today. (Coming in after: Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, containing Iran, the Iranian nuclear deal, the spread of extremism, the current crisis in Yemen, the looming crisis in Libya, Egyptian stability, maintaining eroding support among our traditional Arab allies, and a host of other such issues.)
Further, both special relationships are fading in the minds and hearts of Americans as a new generation starts assuming power, one that has few memories of the historical reasons for the founding of Israel or of Britain’s vital partnership with the United States in two world wars.
Part of the deterioration in these two relationships has to do with policy decisions made by the governments that have just won second terms in power. The U.S.-Israel relationship sure doesn’t feel that special
*when the prime minister of Israel tries to politically body-slam the U.S. president. It is devalued
*when the prime minister of Israel appears to choose sides in the U.S. political debate, seeming to be willing to save his specialness for his Republican friends. And it is certainly deeply damaged
*when Israel wages a brutal and unjustifiable campaign against the people of Gaza that violates international norms and offends the sensibilities of all with a hint of conscience, as the Netanyahu government did last year.
By David Rothkopf