Thursday, November 10, 2011

Israeli contributions to US national interests

From Tablet:
Many foreign-policy experts, even as they acknowledge that the United States has a moral responsibility to stand with the sole democracy in the Middle East, argue that Israel is a strategic liability. Robert Blackwill, a high-level diplomat in Republican administrations and a self-described Kissingerian realist, is someone who you’d safely assume shares that view. But Blackwill wanted to see if that way of looking at things was actually true.

Along with Walter B. Slocombe, who served as undersecretary of Defense for Policy under President Bill Clinton, Blackwill detailed his findings in a paper just published by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “Israel: A Strategic Asset for the United States” argues that the United States not only shares national interests with the Jewish state—like preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and combating terrorism—but also reaps numerous advantages from the alliance.

The paper offers chapter and verse on Israeli contributions to the U.S. national interest. They include: Israeli counter-proliferation efforts, such as the 1981 bombing of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear facility and the 2007 attack on Syria’s secret nuclear facility at al-Kibar; joint military training exercises, as well as exchanges on military doctrine; Israeli technology, like unmanned aerial systems, armored vehicle protection, defense against short-range rocket threats, and robotics; missile defense cooperation; counterterrorism and intelligence cooperation; and cyber defense. Blackwill and Slocombe conclude that the alliance is in fact so central to U.S. national interests that U.S. policymakers should find ways to further enhance cooperation with Jerusalem.

Blackwill and Slocombe’s detailed list is a unique event in the ongoing U.S. policy debate over the advisability of this bilateral relationship. Blackwill says that for all the media attention devoted to Israel, he and Slocombe were surprised to find no comprehensive account of Israel’s contribution to the U.S. national interest existed previously. “I figured I’ll just Google it,” he told me this week over the phone. “But there was no existing encompassing list. So, we went item by item, making sure we had the facts straight. We didn’t exaggerate or overstate the contribution.”
The authors gave a presentation about the paper at the Washington Institute on Tuesday:

The paper itself can be seen here. Followng is the main part, that actually lists Israeli contributions to the US:
Through joint training and exercises as well as exchanges on military doctrine, the United States has benefited in the areas of counterterrorism cooperation, tactical intelligence, and experience in urban warfare. The largest-ever U.S.-Israel joint exercise is scheduled for spring 2012.

Israeli technology promotes American interests. Increasingly, U.S. homeland security and military agencies are turning to Israeli technology to solve some of their most vexing technical problems. This support ranges from advice and expertise on behavioral screening techniques for airport security to acquiring an Israeli-produced tactical radar system to enhance force protection. Israel has been a world leader in the development of unmanned aerial systems, for both intelligence collection and combat, and it has shared with the U.S. military the technology, the doctrine, and its experience regarding these systems. Israel is also a global pacesetter in active measures for armored vehicle protection, defense against short-range rocket threats, and the techniques and procedures of robotics, all of which it has shared with the United States..

In the vital realm of missile defense cooperation, the United States has a broad and multifaceted relationship with Israel, its most sophisticated and experienced partner in this preeminent domain for the United States. Israel’s national missile defenses—including the U.S. deployment in Israel of an advanced X-band radar system and the more than 100 American military personnel who man it—will be an integral part of a larger missile defense architecture spanning Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Persian Gulf that will help protect U.S. forces and allies throughout this vast area. For this reason, the director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency recently praised the specific contribution that Israel’s integrated, multilayered command-and-control network makes to the U.S. military’s ability to defend against the Iranian missile threat..

While it is certainly true that Israel gains significantly from generous U.S. financial assistance to its military—most of it spent in America—Israel’s defense industries have certain unique competencies that benefit the United States. One result is the growing importance to the U.S. military of Israeli defense goods, as the United States has taken advantage of access to unique Israeli capabilities in key “niche” areas of military technology. Overall, the value of annual U.S. purchases of Israeli defense articles has increased steadily over the past decade, from less than a half billion dollars in the early 2000s to about $1.5 billion today. Among the Israelideveloped defense equipment used by the U.S. military are short-range unmanned aircraft systems that have seen service in Iraq and Afghanistan; targeting pods on hundreds of Air Force, Navy, and Marine strike aircraft; a revolutionary helmet-mounted sight that is standard in nearly all frontline Air Force and Navy fighter aircraft; lifesaving armor installed in thousands of MRAP armored vehicles used in Iraq and Afghanistan; and a gun system for close-in defense of naval vessels against terrorist dinghies and small-boat swarms. Moreover, American and Israeli companies are working together to jointly produce Israel’s Iron Dome—the world’s first combat-proven counter-rocket system..

Counterterrorism and intelligence cooperation is deep and extensive, with the United States and Israel working to advance their common interest in defeating the terrorism of Hamas, Hizballah, and al-Qaeda and its affiliate groups by sharing information, supporting preventive actions, deterring challenges, and coordinating overall strategy. Joint Special Forces training and exercises, collaboration on shared targets, and close cooperation among the relevant U.S. and Israeli security agencies testify to the value of this relationship..

More broadly, Israel is a full partner in intelligence operations that benefit both countries, such as efforts to interdict the supply of parts to Iran’s nuclear program or to prevent weapons smuggling in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. This intimate relationship reinforces overall U.S. intelligence efforts by providing Washington with access to Israel’s unique set of capabilities for collection and assessments on key countries and issues in the region, since Israel is able to focus resources and attention on certain targets of central importance to the United States. Such was the case, for example, when Israel passed to the United States conclusive photographic evidence that Syria, with North Korean assistance, had made enormous strides toward “going hot” with a plutoniumproducing reactor. As Israel’s strategic intelligence collection capabilities (e.g., satellite and unmanned aerial systems) mature and improve, this cooperation and exchange of intelligence information and analysis will increasingly serve U.S. national interests..

Given that Iran and its allies in the greater Middle East represent clear and present dangers to U.S. interests, Israel’s military—the most powerful in the region—plays an important role in addressing those threats posed especially by Syria, Hizballah, and to some extent, Iran itself. The ability of the Israeli armed forces to deter the military ambitions of destabilizing regional actors promotes American national interests because it presents our common enemies with an additional— and potent—military capability to resist their aggression..

Looking to the future, Israel’s world-class expertise in two cutting-edge areas of national security—cyber defense and national resilience planning and implementation—will increasingly redound to the benefit of the United States. Israel is a primary place where the United States can build an enduring partnership to try to secure the cyber commons, as enunciated in the administration’s International Strategy for Cyberspace. With its world-class information technology, R&D, and cybersecurity capabilities, Israel will be an ever more important player in efforts to secure cyberspace and to protect critical U.S. national infrastructure from cyberattack. Through the Israel-based activities of major U.S. companies or the licensing in the United States of Israeli technologies, Israel’s excellence in cybersecurity already benefits critical U.S. infrastructure such as banking, communications, utilities, transportation, and general Internet connectivity. And if security concerns of both parties can be managed, Israel can become a major partner in efforts to exploit the military applications of cyberpower, in the same way that the two countries have established collaborative relationships in intelligence and counterterrorism. Finally, drawing on its experience in building a flourishing economy and vibrant democracy despite decades of conflict and terrorism, Israel has a role to play in helping the United States deepen its own internal resilience in dealing with terrorist threats against the homeland and the impact of natural disasters..