On Taking Sides and unwarranted Influences?

When people in the United States remember the attacks of September 11, 2001, we are sometimes told they occurred because terrorists "hate our freedom." What the Muslim world really hates is U.S. military and economic aid that has made possible the state of apartheid Lindsay Fielder Cook described in her article on Palestine ("Perhaps We Are Part of the Problem," FJ Sept. 2009). We could cease being part of the problem by simply declining to underwrite the Israeli displacement of Palestinians.

George Fox wrote in the Peace Testimony, "We know that wars and fightings proceed from the lusts of men . . . wherein envious men, who are lovers of themselves more than lovers of God, lust, kill, and desire to have men’s lives or estates. . . ." When the United States forms permanent alliances with countries that behave aggressively while maintaining an arms industry that profits from military commitments arising from those alliances, the results are deadly for us abroad and at home. In his 1796 farewell address George Washington warned us to "steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world." Noting the advantages of our "detached and distant situation" our first President asked "Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?" Today we should ask the same question not only about our relationships with Europeans but also with Israel.

People who see fit to take sides in a fight shouldn’t be surprised if they are attacked. For decades the United States has taken sides in a land dispute between Arabs and Jews. People in the United States who aren’t Zionists have no vital interest in the ground Arabs call "Palestine" and Jews, "Israel." That territory, thousands of miles from our shores, has no more economic or strategic value to the United States than Zimbabwe or Tibet, yet political pressure from lobbies like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) results in $3 billion in economic and military aid to Israel annually, totaling over $130 billion in constant dollars since the 1950s. Arabs know where F-16s and Apache helicopters come from and don’t forget how they’re used. Muslims generally have contempt for Western culture, which many view as decadent and materialistic, but I believe what motivated 19 of them to fly jetliners into office buildings was, in large part, the steadfast alliance of the United States with Israel. Had George Washington’s warning concerning permanent alliances been heeded we would have avoided the carnage of September 11.

In his 1961 farewell address President Eisenhower noted that until World War II no part of our economy was devoted solely to building armaments, and the conjunction of immense permanent armed forces and a large arms industry was new in the U.S. experience. He saw it as a great danger and cautioned us to "guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist." Such misplaced power can evidence itself in a cycle where permanent alliances against which George Washington cautioned result in endless military commitments with unlimited profit potential for arms manufacturers. Profits realized from arms sales provide the motive and financial means to reelect politicians who favor permanent alliances resulting in endless military commitments with unlimited profit potential. Our permanent alliance with Israel is very profitable for manufacturers who supply it with billions in weapons systems annually, paid for with our taxes; and both have lobbyists on Capitol Hill to ensure this lucrative arrangement continues unabated. Arms manufacturers also profited handsomely off what I see as a proxy war we waged for Israel against an Iraqi regime that could not even control its own airspace, was in no position to threaten the United States, had not made war on us, but was hostile to the Jewish State.

A consistent path to peace between the United States and other nations begins with a renunciation, as George Fox put it, of "all outward wars and strife." This also requires that we heed George Washington’s advice to maintain diplomatic and trade relations with the world’s nations while avoiding, whenever possible, alliances with any. By not entangling our peace and prosperity in the rivalries and ambitions of others the United States could avoid having to fight foreign wars or supporting authoritarian regimes.


Howard Fezell, an attorney, attends Shepherdstown (W.Va.) Allowed Meeting, which is part of Frederick (Md.) Meeting.