The F-35s and the Lobby: let’s talk Empire

The Lobby-armacore-petrocore nexus is on a serious binge. Newspapers are reporting that the arms deal with Saudi Arabia has swollen to an estimated 60 billion dollars, the largest such deal ever made. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Obama administration is seeking Congressional approval to sell Saudi Arabia 84 F-15s and to upgrade 70 of them. The American defense industry will also sell the Saudis three kinds of helicopters: 70 Apaches, 72 Black Hawks, and 36 Little Birds. Alongside these sales, the administration is discussing upgrading the Saudi navy. That deal is potentially worth 30 billion dollars, and involves littoral combat ships, meant for close-to-shore combat, and blue water warships.
The word from US officials is that Israel is happy with the sales because the planes will be bereft of the long-range weapons systems that would presumably pose a threat to Israeli security. The Israelis will also soon be purchasing the F-35. “We appreciate the administration’s efforts to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge, and we expect to continue to discuss our concerns with the administration about the issues,” commented Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the US. What’s the role of the Lobby here? Seems straightforwardly despicable. It secured the several billion dollar wing deal for 800 of the 3200 F-35s, a little bit of financial lubrication that in effect diverts American taxpayer money into Israeli Aerospace Industries, an Israeli-state-owned industrial defense firm. We know what the Lobby does when it Lobbies. But what about everyone else?
Also straightforward. Potentially 60 billion Saudi Arabian petrodollars get pumped into the American military-industrial complex, creating tens of thousands of jobs in multiple states alongside massive profits, simultaneously quieting down labor, Congress, and associated commercial and industrial interests that will benefit from the reverberations of that economic activity in both the economic and political spheres. The labor leadership can quaver about how these arms sales serve the interests of working people, Congress can cower behind the need for jobs in a recession.
Meanwhile, articulate sectors that might otherwise put 2 and 2 together can be relied upon to shut up. Fragments of the liberal-left intelligentsia will quiet down due to ideological support for Israel and their skewed understand of its self-induced defense “needs,” while they will be loath to get too testy about the money flowing to Saudi Arabic, quietly aware that the dictatorship is not an enemy of Israel, although its population certainly is—or at least, an enemy of a bellicose, occupying Israel.
All of this, of course, is advertised as being in the “national interest,” as State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said yesterday. A remarkably flexible concept, useful for just about anything except telling the truth. In this case, the national interest is “to maintain security and stability in the region”: odd to pour in the weapons that could fuel regional conflagration when the goal is “stability.”
The question should never be, “Is There an Israel Lobby?” or “Is It Powerful?” Those are silly questions. The question is why other sectors of capital connive with and tolerate that Lobby. Easy answer, no? An order-of-magnitude larger amount of money flows into their coffers than “they”—but in reality, American taxpayers—lose to the Israeli defense industry. Furthermore, other sources report that a Lockheed Martin spokesman said Israel’s industrial participation agreement with the company is based on the country’s desire to eventually buy 75 F-35s.* Looks like things may even out eventually.
The F-35s aren’t scheduled to be delivered until 2015, which means any radar-evading properties they may have that would enable them to dodge Iranian radar wouldn’t help them if bombardment of Iran is incipient, clarifying that sober planners understand that Iran does not pose an existential threat to anyone, although its latent potential as a regional power that refuses to follow US orders is a constant threat—thus explaining imperial destabilization, as probably occurred during the post-election fracas in June 2009.
But the threat of military action against Iran provides a reason to pump up defense spending, keeping a constant excuse in place for that spending while American domestic infrastructure crumbles. People are kept scared and, scared, are prevented from asking questions about the distribution of American government cash. The Lobby does push hard for war, but other sectors of domestic power push against it—usually, the Pentagon, generals with their eye on the empire’s overall interests. Somehow that the Lobby hasn’t gotten its war with Iran is taken to be proof of its overweening power, while the hundreds of billions in post-2003 oil profits that have flooded American oil companies due to the “War for Israel” are deliberately, perhaps myopically, ignored. In this case, I think that the threat of war with Iran is functional for American oil companies, something they could not be unaware of.
If there actually was war against Iran—which there could be, the Lobby’s chicanery combined with domestic political dynamics could bring it about, although I doubt it—oil prices would go too high, and there would be energy substitution, people would seek other sources of energy, eventually leading the way to another crash in oil prices. Such a crash would be disastrous for the oil industry, which has enormous fixed capital costs and will have to pump that oil even at a slight loss, or simply cap its wells, equally damaging since the investment will be standing physically idle, unable to generate profits.
And if that war happens, the retaliation from Hezbollah will be fierce. Rockets will pummel Tel-Aviv and other Israeli population centers. There will be massive destruction across the Middle East, and Israel will not be spared. And because of the Lobby’s justly perceived role in bringing about the war, anti-Semitism will skyrocket. This is a very oddly-named “Israel/Zionist/Jewish Lobby” that is so bad for Jews, Israel, and Zionism. Alongside talk of the Lobby, we need to talk about political economy. So why can’t we talk profits, oil, weapon shipments, the military-industrial complex, and imperialism? Why is contextualizing and actually analyzing the Lobby taken to be tantamount to denying it? If there are answers, I would like to hear them.
* Israel is apparently only slated to pay 96 million per jet, as opposed to what seems like the retail cost (150-160 million dollars apiece).
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