From Alaska to the Negev Desert, cooperation between Israeli and American militaries is putting U.S. troops in harm’s way.
By Philip Giraldi
The increasing ties between the Israeli and American militaries have gone virtually unnoticed in the U.S. media apart from reports about the $3.1 billion in military assistance that Tel Aviv receives each year. The United States has just completed the largest ever joint military exercises with Israel, even though there is no bilateral defense agreement or treaty between the two countries.
Scenarios in the exercises had American soldiers defending Israel by fighting Syrians, Lebanese, and Palestinians in a mock-up Arab village.
Upon conclusion of the Juniper Cobra exercises, Air Force Lt. Gen. Richard Clark observed that American soldiers should be prepared to die for the Jewish state, adding that they would probably be under the command of an Israeli Air Force general, who subsequently advised that “I am sure . . . we will find U.S. troops on the ground . . . to defend the state of Israel.”
But Washington’s more serious commitment to Israel derives from the recent opening of a U.S. permanent installation at Mashabim Air Base in the Negev desert. The American facility is a base within a base, surrounded by the Israeli Air Force and operating “under Israeli military directives.” It is a shell facility with a few airmen who could be reinforced if Israel goes to war. Together with billions of dollars-worth of U.S. military equipment that is pre-positioned in Israel and can be used by the Israelis as needed, it is all about supporting Israeli war-making and has nothing to do with American security or defense interests.
Overseas military bases normally serve two functions. The first and foremost should be to defend the United States from attack originating with a foreign power, serving in effect as a forward defense. That is basically what the U.S. Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar does, as it enables surveillance and both first and retaliatory strike capability in what has become a volatile region. Major American bases in Germany and elsewhere in Europe similarly have considerable defensive and offensive capabilities, making them a forward based deterrent against attack.
More often, however, the existence of Washington’s military installations overseas is to serve as token presences, guarantors that the United States will become involved in the war if an ally is attacked. As no one seriously wants to confront U.S. power directly, the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines serve as a deterrent, making an offensive action by an antagonist pretty much unthinkable.
That issue of deterrence is why there are American soldiers in Poland and the Baltic States and the real reason why 30,000 troops remain in South Korea. It also assumes that Russia is a hostile and expansionistic power, which is debatable, though the potential truculence of North Korea is better established.
Israel, as is so often the case, does not neatly fit into either rationale for having an American overseas military base, but there has been virtually no pushback either from Congress or the media over what can be construed as a highly risky initiative. The Mashabim military base can be reinforced as needed, but reinforced for what? The United States has far more capable units throughout the region and the U.S. base could not play any significant role if serious fighting were to break out.
If the Israeli base were to be attacked by either Iran or Hezbollah rockets, however, that would mean that the United States would also be considered to be under attack and would respond in kind. So that means that the American presence is to guarantee that any attacker would understand that striking at Israel is the same as striking at the United States, which would be a deterrent. But there is something wrong with that formulation. In the cases of Europe and South Korea, the United States has formal agreements that define how Washington would respond to attacks on its allies within the framework of what is a defensive not an offensive alliance. And those countries are formal allies with established borders, which is not the case with Israel.
There is nothing to prevent Israel from attacking Iran or Hezbollah, producing a retaliatory response, and expecting that the U.S. would suddenly appear to do the real fighting. In fact, given Israel’s history of aggression against its neighbors that is precisely what very well might happen. America has de facto given up its sovereign right to declare war and handed it over to Israel.
And there’s more. The most recent largely unreported news about Israeli-American military engagement comes from the island of Kodiak off the coast of Alaska, where Israel will be testing its new Arrow 3 missile system, which was largely funded by the United States, so it can be deployed in Israel. A reported 62 shipping containers have been turned into sleeping quarters for Israeli soldiers, who will be operating out of the Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska, where the tests will take place.
The reason given for Israel’s need to begin testing its missiles in the United States is that the Arrow 3 is an exo-atmospheric missile, which flies into outer space coming back down to hit its target. The Mediterranean Sea is apparently too small an area to test such a missile, which has a range of 1,500 miles that includes all of Europe as well as much of Western Asia and North Africa.
Arrow 3 would also give Israel an anti-satellite weapon, allowing it to join only the U.S., Russia, and China with that military capability.
The question that the Pentagon should be asking is, “Who is Israel targeting with its new weapon system and why?” The missile clearly has offensive capabilities that go way beyond Israel’s neighborhood and far in excess of any legitimate defense needs.
The blank check given to Israel is not just in the form of money and an unlimited flow of U.S.-made military equipment. It also consists of an unwillingness to challenge anything that Israel wants, including creating the conditions whereby the United States will be willy-nilly involved in a war initiated by a feckless Benjamin Netanyahu.
And the U.S. has wound up funding and testing a missile that someday might be used against it and which, incidentally, competes with similar products made by American defense contractors, costing jobs here at home.
Philip Giraldi is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer and a columnist and television commentator. He is also the executive director of the Council for the National Interest. Other articles by Giraldi can be found on the website of the Unz Review.