American military aid to Israel has been increased yet again, which leads us to ask the inevitable question: What are we getting for our money?
Well, we're getting this, as well as this, and this – not to mention this.
The regularly quoted figure is $3.5 billion per year. John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt go with the figure of $3 billion in their new book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, averring that this is "generous, but it is hardly the whole story." This "canonical" figure, they say, "omits a substantial number of other benefits." The authors cite former congressman Lee Hamilton as saying that Israel is one of three countries whose aid total "substantially exceeds the popularly quoted figures." The actual figure, said Hamilton, is more than $4.5 billion.
As Mearsheimer and Walt have pointed out, neither the practical nor the moral case for this extraordinary amount of material support is justified: our Israel-centered foreign policy has been a burden to us in our dealings with the other nations of the Middle East, and it is increasingly clear that U.S. and Israeli interests have diverged since the end of the Cold War. Contrary to the Lobby's assertion that 9/11 made their fight our fight, the exact opposite is the case. Anti-Americanism in the Muslim world is a deadly danger to our national security and a great boon to Osama bin Laden and his many imitators around the globe. This arming of the Israeli Sparta is a strategic and diplomatic liability that grows with each passing year.
This post by Matt Yglesias over at The Atlantic makes a lot of sense, as far as it goes. An argument made by the Amen Corner is that the Israelis are performing a valuable service by refining the technical expertise of the military-industrial complex: they're doing the research and development that is giving America the weapons of tomorrow. But "this doesn't really make sense," Yglesias writes, "since defense contractors – American, Israeli, French, whatever – get paid for their work as is, so it's not clear why the Israeli government would need extra payment." (MORE)