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Kissinger And The Mideast

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The bedrock of American policy n the Middle East is the prin ciple that petroleum reserves must be under the control of A merican based energy corporations. They must amass sufficient profits during the final decades of the petroleum-based e conomy to guarantee that they will control the next phase ai welt. The Middle East situation is much more complex than one is led to helieve hv the U.S. press. It's not a simple case of the beleugured Israelis repelling the villainous Arabs who not only want to push them iiito the sea, but want to ruin the west 's industrialized economy. The United States has support ed Israel since its emergente as the dominant military power and most teclmically advanced society in the Middle East. But since the 1930's when oil first gushed out of the Arabian desert. tie U.S. lias had a unique bilateral trade relationship with the Arabs. The World has been forced to purchase its oil through U.S. based oil corporations. ín exchange the U.S. sold the Arabs its technology, the most sought after and, for the U.S., pro-' fitable goods being fighter planes, tanks and every type of modern armanent. Now that Israel is surrounded by hostile Arah neighbors who mav soon be .equally welt armed, the United States is treading on fhin ice as Israel 's ally . The Arabs control much of the world's supply of oil and uut il the U.S. and other western industrialized nations can become self-sufficieut in energy produetion, they will be at the mercy of an Arah oil embargo. The Arabs liare sworn that i f the U.S. replenishes Israel in the next war, an embargo is certa in. Right now the Israelis are gilding for another war, swearing not to be cauglit unaware by the Arabs as they were in Oetober IV7J. The Syrians are armed to the t eet h by the Soviet Union, but Egypt is not prepared for war; needing parts and supplies used up in the last one. At tempt ing to retain close ties with the U.S. Egypt effect ed a cancellation of Soviet leader Brezhnev 's January arms-sales risit to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, delaying its rearmament. Meanwhile the U.S. continúes to sell arms to both sides, the most recent sale being jet fighter planes to Saudi Arabia, ostensibly for use against Soviet suppoÊ ed Iraq, now in a limited war with Iran, a staunch U.S. ally of considerable military might. the solution to the Middle East' The U.S. would like to see concessions on all sides. If the Arabs, incuding the PLO, would recognize the legitimacy of Israel, i f Israel would wirhdraw from some Arah territoir and possiblv even accept a Palestinian State, then Kissinger would cali lus negotiations a victorv. The following article, from the University Review, is written by Noam Chomsky who teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has written extensively on Vietnam and American foreign policy. f lis inost recent honk Peace in the Middle East? Rellectionson Justice and Nationhood is availahle in local bookstores. Conventional ideology pretends that the political system offers substantive choicesamong alternative policies-and that the people rule. But this mythology should deceive no one. The replacement of Richard Nixon by his hand-picked successor should have no discernible effect on US government policy toward the Middle East. No matter who is in office, the executive branch of the government, where policy is formulated and mplemented, is largely staffed by representaties of the private empires that control economie and social life and naturally answers to their nterests. Congress is only slightly more varied in its social and ideological character: how many members of Congress expect to be factory hands, clerks, truck drivers, or hospital orderlies when they leave office? In any event, rhetoric about the abuse of presidential power aside, Congress is necessarily ineffectual in a period of decline of capitalist institutions when decisive state action is needed to manage the domestic and international order in -the interest of the privileged. To be sure, individuals may differ in the sudden decisions they reach in a moment of crisis. Nixon and Kissinger made a point of the unpredictability of their actions, their skill in keeping the adversary off balance," their irrationaity, to use the more appropriate term. Kissinger, in particular, has a keen eye for public relations. The one true element of genius in nis diplomacy is his ability to manipúlate the media. He is inclined to try for the dramatic ettect. As a team, Nixon-Kissinger were perhaps a shade more likely than other possible political combmations to play games with the threat of nuclear war-witness the alert of last Uctober-though the men of Camelot were hardly tess prone to such posturing. Kissinger is on record with his contempt for the cowards who were unwilling to "face up to the risks of Armageddon" and thus lost global hegemony at the time of the Korean war. Furthermore, neither he nor Nixon made even a show of concern for human rights, even the right of survival. Power is all that matters in their proclaimed doctrine, and they have proudly boastedquite talsely, although the subservient media parrot their pretense-that they were able to bomb the Vietnamese enemy to the negotiating table in an outburst of uncontrolled savagery. This pose as well had some effect on the policies they conducted. The bedrock of Americanfpolicy in the Middle East, whoever may be in office, is the principie that the petroleum reserves must be under the control of American-based corporations, to the maximum extent possible. Middle East oil is needed in the Unrted btates Furthermore, it is imperative that others not gain privileged access to these vast and relat.vely sources of energy, or US industry will no longer be able to compete in the marketplace, and the American economy will head into a tailspin The giant energy corporations must amass suff icient profits during the final decades of the petroleumDasea economy to guarantee that they will control the next phase as well American government policy will surely facilítate this effort. There will be new markets and opportunities for investment in the Middle East. These, too , must be open to US-based corporations. Bilateral arrangements between the oil producers and other capitalist states must be blocked, where possible, so that USbased corporations face no "unfair competition" from foreign states of foreignbased enterprises. The United States must also f ind means to reverse, to some degree, the flow of capital to the oilproducers. The optimal means, evidently, is the sale of arms. Here, the highly advanced technological societies have their rnmnaritivp uuïii iiiii jt iigi luvt ei v i v in i tage, and rapid obsolescence, high cost, and competition among hostile neighbors keeps business moving at a nice pace. The vast flow of US arms to Iran and Saudi Arabia, in particular, has the additional effect of strengthening regimes that can control the región under the American aegis, conducting counterinsurgency operations where necessary, as Iran is now doing on the fringes of the Arabian península. During and after World War II, the British were eased out of their dominant position in the the Arabian península and Iran, and American clients were maintained in power as US energy companies took over the major role in organizing the production and distribution of petroleum. The war of October 1973 endangered this system, as European and Japanese capital state and private, moved toward independent arrangements with the oil producing states, threatening to undercut American enterprises. The Europeans and Japanese were quickly made to understand that this would not be tolerated. Naturally, it was never contemplated that the US should termínate its bilateral arrangements; new arms sales to Saudi Arabia, for example, were arranged shortly after the oil boycott was announced. But there was no lack of moralistic denunciations of our allies for their greeci and self ishness, their short-sighted failure to join n a "united front" controlled by the United" States. The underlying issues, masked by selfserving rhetoric, are highly significant. American government policy isdirected to constructing a global economy in which US-based corpora tions can function freely-and which, given their scale and resources, they can domínate. The major potential threat to this system is the independence of Western Europe and Japan. The problem was controlled in the early post-war period by the Marshall Plan and the reconstruction of Japanese capitatism. And American nvestment overseas, particularly in the European Common Market, multiplied nearly tenfold in ensuing years. The Middle East crisis has been to strengthen the position of US-based corporations in relation to their foreign competitors. The case of Japan is particularly instructive. The US permitted, indeed encouraged postwar Japanese capitalist industrializaron, with few constraints. But the energy that powered the resource poor Japanese economy was kept largely under American control. In December 1973, the Saudi Arabian oil minister, Sheikh Yamani, perceptively outlined the facts of life to the Japanese in a visit to Tokyo. He offered Japan bilateral arrangements, with a guaranteed supply of petroleum in return for technological assistance and industrial development. But he noted that the price would be a conflict with the Unites States. It was unnecessary for him to recall the earlier costs of Japanese efforts at economie independence: for example, two atom bombs. All of this was intended, no doubt, as a warning to the United States, a warning that was heeded, as US government policy shifted slightly. American support for Israel in the late 1960's may seem to be at odds with these standing primary commitments, but this is an illusion. Rhetoric aside, the major oilproducing states seemed reasonably satisfied with this arrangement; Iran, openly so. The major fear of Saudi Arabia, the keystone of the system, is radical Arab nationalism, perhaps with Russian backing, whether in the Levant, in Libya and Iraq, or in the Arabian península itself. A powerful Israel posed a certain barrier to radical Arab nationalism and Russian influence, and for this reason was tolerable to the reactionary regime of Saudi Arabia. Even in October 1973, Saudi Arabia, made no moves to support Egypt and Syria until it became clear, to the surprise of virtualty everyone, that their military operations had met with considerable success. At that point, it was quite impossible for Saudi Arabia, with its claims to leadership of Arab nationalism, to remaní to the side. Eleven days after the Egyptian-Syrian offensive nto territories occupied by Israel, Saudi Arabia joined in the efforts to institute an oil boycott, though since that time, it has made efforts to moderate the demands of the oil producers. It is not surprising that the United States, particularly since 1967, should have sought a close alliance with Israel, the most technological society and dominant military power of the región. The shared interests of the United States, Iran, and even Saudi Arabia contributed to this policy, which was also domestically popular-in part because of the Jewish vote, Jewish f inancial support for candidates, and Jewish influecne in the media-but also out of respect for demonstrated Israeli military might. The latter factor was particularly significant at a moment when the United States appeared ncapable of crushing the Vietnamese; Israel, at least, had shown how Orientáis can be properly handled. One recalls the little witticisms, at the time, about hiring Moshe Dayan to conduct the American war. The 1967 war seemed to demónstrate that Israeli predominance in the región was overwhelming and, in the shortrun, unchallengeable. Israeli Foreign Minister Afoba Eban explained the prevailing attitude, somewhat ruefully, after the illusion was shattered last October: "...befare October f5, wc hada visión o) total superiority, of untimited self-conjldence. General 'Arik' Sitaran was even tatking about ur (flúliiv to conquer everything herween Khartoum mul Téhefan, ligt i ia and the Persian üulf. . . wc liaJ a visión o) our own omnipotence umi tij total Arab incptitudc iliui is simplv Uut true ..." (New Republic, Mmrli 23, 'V-V. ) As the events of Octo--: ber revealed. Prior to that shock, the "visión" was generally shared by American analysts. The degree of American support to Israel correlates rather closely with the estímate of Is military and industrial power. Domestic factors are not decisive. The belief to the contrary is one element in the prevailing pluralist mythology. When the needs of United States policy were seen differently, Dulles did not hesitate to forcé Israel to termínate water diversion projects by cutting aid, and Eisenhower ordered Israel to evacúate the Sinai península after the French-British-lsraeli attack on Egypt in 1956, the famous "Jewish vote" notwith standing. In the early 1960's, American aid to Egypt was doublé that of the Soviet Union. Domestic Zionist inf luence is effective to the extent that it is in accordance with the perceiv ed needs of US government policy, for the most part. If that policy changes, the "influence" will wane accordingly. After the 1967 war, Israel and the United States had two basic policy options. The first was to accept the 1967 UN Resolution 242. As understood throughout most of the world, this implied a return to the prewar borders, with slight territorial modifications and demilitarized zones separating potential antagonists. A peace treaty would follow guaranteed by the superpowers, for whatever that is worth. Not very much, in fact, as the 1967 war itself showed. A tripartite agreement, to which the United States was a party, guaranteed that no state of the región should infringe on the territory of its neighbors, but this commitment had no influence on American policy toward Israel after its overwhelming victory in June 1967. The second option was for Israel to move toward permanent occupation of the territories conquered in the Six Day War, with American support. The first option was embodied in the Rogers Plan, which was accepted by Nasser in July 1970, a few weeks after it was formally announced. This plan wasabandoned by the US government a few months later ,-after a cease-f iré ended the "war of attrition" on the Suez front with Israel in a favorable position, and after Hussein's army had succeeded in delivercontinued on paqe 12 As matters now stand, Israel is under American control. Egypt and Saudi Arabia have recovered their preferred position as American clients. Iran, a firm American ally, is rapidly becoming one of the world's major military powers. Disruptive forces, such as the Palestinians, face hostility on all fronts, though their appeal to mass opinión in the Arab countries places certain Itmits on the measures that can be taken against them.