How do the boots-on-the-ground guys and gals in the American military feel about Israel?

Various news outlets are reporting that the U.S. is dramatically scaling back joint exercises with Israel, something Israel perceives to be a sign of distrust and an effort (again) to create distance between itself and America:

Seven months ago, Israel and the United States postponed a massive joint military exercise that was originally set to go forward just as concerns were brimming that Israel would launch a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. The exercise was rescheduled for late October, and appears likely to go forward on the cusp of the U.S. presidential election. But it won’t be nearly the same exercise. Well-placed sources in both countries have told TIME that Washington has greatly reduced the scale of U.S. participation, slashing by more than two-thirds the number of American troops going to Israel and reducing both the number and potency of missile interception systems at the core of the joint exercise.

“Basically what the Americans are saying is, ‘We don’t trust you,’” a senior Israeli military official tells TIME.

The reductions are striking. Instead of the approximately 5,000 U.S. troops originally trumpeted for Austere Challenge 12, as the annual exercise is called, the Pentagon will send only 1,500 service members, and perhaps as few as 1,200. Patriot anti-missile systems will arrive in Israel as planned, but the crews to operate them will not. Instead of two Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense warships being dispatched to Israeli waters, the new plan is to send one, though even the remaining vessel is listed as a “maybe,” according to officials in both militaries.

Those of us who have been watching the Commander in Chief (i.e., Obama) aren’t surprised by this directive. After all, he stated a long time ago that he intended to create a bit of daylight between America and Israel, and that (sadly) is one of the few promises he’s kept.

What I don’t know, though, is how much a decision about joint military exercises originates in the White House and how much originates in the Pentagon.  That ignorance leads me to a few questions:

  1. How do the guys and gals in the American military feel about Israel?
  2. Has the Navy forgiven Israel for the U.S.S. Liberty incident?
  3. Do our troops believe that Israel is a comrade in the fight against radical Islam or do they believe the Democrat line that Israel’s very existence is the sole reason Islamists are radicalized?
  4. And finally, back to my original confusion, when a decision like this happens, one that is a slap in the face to an ally, does it come from the White House or the Pentagon?

I would truly appreciate your input on this subject, as I have no information on it whatsoever.

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  • Danny Lemieux

    My buff, go-getter, Krav Maga Army son thinks the IDF rocks and allows that even the IDF “girls” could probably beat him up. He would love to train with the IDF.

    Interestingly, though, he also believes the Saudi Arabians really are our friends. I can’t tell you why.

  • Oldflyer

    Book, this old USN guy will never forgive the Liberty.  As far as I am concerned there has never been an acceptable explanation; the ones provided are almost insulting.
    I am and will forever be just a little ambivalent about Israel.
    I respect Israel in many ways.  I understand that their backs are to the wall each and every day.  I know that they must be ruthless in order to exist. I believe that given the opportunity they would be a democratic  force for good in the Middle-East.  For those reasons, I believe that as a moral imperative we should support them, and do all that we can to protect them.
    On the other hand, I have never considered them an ally.  Alliances are a two way street; this is not. The idea that Israel is a contributing ally is probably a necessary fiction.  But, in my opinion it is a fiction nonetheless.
    Danny, I am sure your son is joking.  Just as I used to laugh when the Israeli Air Force, fighting over its own airfields against some of the most inept pilots in the world, were touted as superior to our own Air Force or Navy.

  • weathtd

    As an eighteen year infantry vet, I fully support Israel.  It is the only nation and people in the Middle East that even remotely reflects our values and philosophy.  I guess alot of that comes from this country being based on the Judeo-Christian values.  When it comes to defending themselves and going after their enemies, “Israel don’t play”.  Entebbe, hunting down Black September and winning against 10 to 1 odds.  If I weren’t so old, fat, and out of shape I would gladly join them against the Islamic hordes that surround them.

  • jj

    I think a lot of the two-way streetness depends on the boss in the white house.  Obama being what he is, there probably isn’t much we receive from Israel, because he doesn’t see a use for it.  That’s more about him than it is them.  Israel provides, or “has provided” may be more accurate, (though I’m sure they will again), a great deal of useful and actionable intel about a part of the world where we don’t get much.  Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan and both Bush’s all found a use for it, and regarded it as pretty good stuff.  That Carter, Clinton, and Jugears didn’t see it is more a reflection of what use they were than what use Israel is.

    Alliance is generally a two-way street, but you don’t expect things from an ally that they don’t have to give.  Canada is an ally of ours, and a military ally at that – but we don’t expect much help from their air force in NATO bombing campaigns because they don’t have bombers.  So they do other things.  This is pretty much true for all our allies.  Japan might help us with a naval blockade of North Korea, should it ever come up – but Australia and New Zealand won’t contribute much: their navies simply don’t have the horsepower.  So they do other things.  We don’t allow Israel to contribute much in a military sense – though I don’t recall them ever being unwilling, which I damn well do recall plenty of other “allies” being from time to time – because it would complicate things with the f***ing camel jockeys, about whose peace of mind everybody is supposed to be so concerned – and Jugears really is – but they have offered what they have.  And other administrations and secretaries of state have had the wit to take it.  That we no longer do is stupid, but typical.         

  • Caped Crusader

    The only thing I would have added to your comments is, right after “camel jockeys” you forgot to add –“and practitioners of the religion of peace”. Otherwise a perfect assessment.
    Israel, of necessity, plays for keeps; and good for them. Wish we did also.

  • Oldflyer

    You miss the mark JJ.  What have we ever received from Israel?  Under any President.
    Canada’s military is small it is true.  But, it has been beside us countless times.  In the big scheme, did their military contribution mean a lot?  Probably not.  But, it meant a hell of a lot that they were along side.
    I am not faulting Israel.  As I said, they have their own problems and we would probably not want them involved in our fights for geo-political reasons anyway.  That is assuming they might be inclined, which I do not believe would ever happen.   So, I do object to people erroneously calling them allies.  Friends, ok.  That is a  fair statement.  They are friends when it suits their self-interest to be our friends.  That is as far as it goes; and that is all we should expect.
    I just hate the constant hyperbole that  inflates reality into fantasy.  This is just one example.
    Let me finish my participation by repeating what I said in the earlier post, and what I have said previously on the subject.  We have a moral imperative to defend Israel’s existence.  (We are one of the few countries–perhaps the only one– throughout history that acts on moral imperative.  That is why I am proud to be American.)

  • jj

    As I said, we have received good intelligence from them for as long as they’ve been there.  What we choose to do with it is always the question.  Israeli intelligence will tell you to this day that while we spent nearly a year screwing around with the UN in the run-up to invading Iraq, the Iraqis spent that year moving most of their WMD capability elsewhere – a lot of it to the Beka Valley.  (This was confirmed by British Intelligence, as John Major said repeatedly – to deaf ears.)  G.W. Bush chose never to make an issue of this because (a) it would have meant trouble with Syria, and (b) it would have made more trouble for Israel.  (GW Bush rarely defended any of his actions, and hardly ever even bothered to defend himself.  He saw the Presidency as above that, and it’s done him a lot of damage.  Done us all a lot of damage.)
    In the first Gulf war, as you must surely remember, they were ready to go as members of the coalition G. H.W. Bush assembled.  We had to ask them to stand down, as Bush felt it was more important to the overall mission to secure the cooperation of the participating Arab states in pushing Iraq out of Kuwait, and their delicate sensibilities would have been offended by having to endure the presence of Israelis.  Saddam Hussein, not being a complete dope – and knowing from long experience what complete dopes most of the Arab states are – immediately perceived this.  His tactic was to launch missiles against Israel in hopes of pissing them off so much they retaliated, thereby causing trouble in the coalition.  Our tactic was to entreat them not to do so, and supply them with batteries of Patriot missiles to guard against Saddam’s missiles.  They stood down, and they took it, recognizing that in the eyes of the world it was more important for Arabs to be seen participating in running Iraq out of Kuwait than it was for them to be along.
    I don’t know exactly what you expect from what you’d like to term “allies.”  Sticking to the example of Canada, I live pretty close to Canada, and am back and forth all the time.  I note that those steely-eyed Canadian customs and border guards are all wearing combat boots they got in Milwaukee, uniforms from Chicago, and they’re armed with weapons from Connecticut and Massachusetts, firing ordnance procured in Nebraska or Arkansas.  The attack arm of their air force consists of fewer than 200 “CF-18” fighter bombers, McDonnell-Douglas was nice enough to let them stick a “C” on there, it’s an F/A-18.  (Boeing’s let them keep the “C.”)  The transport is handled by the CC-177 – MicDonnell-Douglas was nice enough to let them stick an extra “C” and a “7” onto a C-17, Boeing let them keep the extra “C” and the extra “7,” so that’s all right.  They transport their troops in a CC-150 Polaris – that’s an Airbus A-310.  They’re heavy into UAVs, six types of which they get from us, one type, the IAI Heron they get from (cough, cough) Israel.  (Israel has a better aerospace industry than Canada does?  Ummm…… yeah.)  I can’t actually think of all these times Canada’s helped us out, either.  They were coalitioners in the first Gulf war, and they went to Afghanistan for a while, until a friendly fire incident, at which time they went home.  In WWII they weren’t our ally, they were Britain’s dominion – and it took some doing for Britain to be able to talk them into participating at all.  (“It’ll be strictly volunteer, no draft; we’ll come home when we want; and somebody else has to equip, feed, and transport us.”  Wow – what an asset.)
    So it occasionally becomes interesting how we define an ally.  “We’ll fight beside you and defend you to the death – as long as you provide the uniforms, guns, bullets, helmets, night-vision, MREs, tents, planes, etc., etc.”  Okay.  And that is, as a matter of history and fact, often enough the position in which the US finds ourselves.  You could wonder if America actually has anything you might refer to as an “ally” in the pure sense.  As was pointed out a long time ago, during Victoria’s reign, great nations don’t have friends, they have interests.  It’s in our interest to have defended and protected (and fed, post-war) our “allies,” so we’ve always done it.  Okay, we made that bed and climbed in, no complaints.  Fire a couple of those bullets we gave you out of that gun we gave you on our behalf, willya?  If it’s quite convenient. 
    The United States of America, in regard to its “allies,” lives in the constant hyperbole that inflates reality into fantasy.  We are the walking, talking example of that hyperbole.  I’ll take Israel over most of them any day.  They actually do try to help, on their own time – and actually do have some understanding of the concept of “gratitude” for what they get.  Canada doesn’t.  France doesn’t.  Italy doesn’t.  New Zealand doesn’t.  It’s too long a list.

  • Oldflyer

    Are you really comparing Israel to Canada as an ally?  Canadians have shed their blood alongside us many times.  That encapsulates the definition of an ally.  Canada may not have always been a perfect ally; there were obvious differences in the Vietnam era.   On the other hand, the Liberty “incident” does not meet my definition of what an ally does by any stretch of the imagination.  
    I was in the eastern Mediterranean during the Yom Kippur war and had a ring-side seat to the massive lift of supplies to Israel.  I mean massive.  That defines our relationship very well.  It is a one way street.
    One more time.  That is ok with me.  It is what it is.  There are reasons that make it so.   Still, bringing in all of the extraneous arguments you care to does not change the reality.

  • Caped Crusader

    jj, and never forget, that most of our “allies” are willing to fight to the last drop of American blood, if it does not inconvenience them in any way. Israel probably the only exception.

  • Ymarsakar

    People really need to get to grips with reality. An “ally” is not some sugar daddy you smooch from nor is it some unpaid worker you “get free stuff from”. An alliance is a matter of mutual interest, a partnership of equals. Anything else and it’s not an alliance, but a different kind of relationship. Something Obama specializes in, particularly.

  • Danny Lemieux

    JJ, we’ve also received very good technology from the Israelis.

  • jj

    Yeah, I know, Danny.  That’s sort of my point.  We get stuff from Israel, in exchange for what we give them.  From most of our “allies” we get aggravation, nonsense, and bullshit in exchange for what we give them.  I’ll take Israel any day. 

    As far as Canada’s concerned, I’m unaware of the many times they’ve shed blood alongside us, and the last two times they went home early.  In WWI they were not our ally, they went to the aid of Britain as part of the Empire.  Then came the Statute of Westminster, which converted them to independent Dominion status, and as that they chose – with the conditions I mentioned above, no draft, etc. – to aid Britain as a Dominion in WWII.  Certainly not as America’s ally, though we did happen to be on the same side.  In the wake of WWII they demobilized in about a weekend, and stated to the world that for future reference they would only go to war as part of an international coalition, not as anybody’s (read: America’s) “ally.”  And that is what they’ve done.  They participated – sort of – in Korea.  They took part in the first Gulf War as coalition members.  They took part in Kosovo as coalition members.  They took part in Afghanistan in the blood-shedding department for as long as it took for a friendly-fire accident, at which point they decided that was enough blood and departed the front.  There are fewer than a thousand of them there these days, in Kandahar Province, training Afghan police, and they’re finished in 2012.  Oh, wait a second – that’s now! 

    That’s history.  It’s easily accessible, and hard to dispute.  Given their time as part of Britain, and there non-participation except as part of a coalition – not anybody’s “ally” since, it seems a fair question to wonder if Canada has ever considered itself America’s “ally,” at any time.  It’s apparent they don’t now.  If you call us, forget it.  If twenty nations call us, well, maybe.  We’ll take it under advisement, have a discussion in Parliament.  That’s an ally?  Come on.  We’re better off with Israel.      

  • Howard

         As I recollect there have been at least three U.S. investigations of the ‘Liberty’ tragedy, all of which exonerated Israel of knowing in advance that they were attacking one of our vessels.
         Israel, as an ally of ours, has never asked for our military to engage in any combat to support them in any of their wars. Volunteers from various countries have assisted in front-line fighting.
         In addition to giving us valuable intelligence, Israel spends most of the loans it gets from us by buying military and other necessities from us — and consistently repays the loans! Likewise, Israel often improves the military equipment they get from us and pass the improvements back to us, in addition to their own original scientific work in electronics, weaponry, agriculture, medicine/medical devices.Israel’s unique up-armoring and installation of counter-RPG systems on our military vehicles systems in Iraq and Afghanistan have saved numerous American lives.
         Israel is not only our ally, but, perhaps our only true national friend if we consider the sentiments and behavior of the overall Israeli populace.

  • Bookworm

    I’m grateful to all of you for your comments, which are thought-provoking, informed, and interesting. I still wonder, though, about the ordinary young man or woman in our military, who doesn’t pay much attention to details and history, maybe divides the world more into enemies and friends. Does the boots on the ground celebrate when we call off jet exercises with Israel, or does s/he think that decision is a damned shame.  Danny Lemieux’s son is now our “N” of one for “likes Israel.” Any other info about currently serving troops?

  • jj

    It’s a good question, and we have wandered from the point, which is probably mostly my fault.  Sorry!  I’m dismayingly far removed from the “boots on the ground” part, lo these decades later!

  • Red Ghost

    I am a boot on the ground, or at least behind a keyboard, in Afghanistan.  45, so not young. I am not happy with BHO’s treatment of Israel, and feel the President’s clear apathy for Israel makes the Middle East a more dangerous place.  I am an Evangelical Christian, and I am very pro Israel and pro Netanyahu. Israel is an oasis of civilization surrounded by barbarians.

  • Mike Devx

    I’m interested in what our soldiers have to say about current events as well.  Please, if you have family or friends of family in the military who will talk (even anonymously and off the record) let us know what they think!

    Seems to me on the other topics here that Oldflyer’s a little too tough on Israel, and jj on Canada.  I’m happy with them both.

    As for Canada, it seems to me they suffer from ‘Little Brother Syndrome”, kind of an inferiority complex.  It’s completely unjustified.  Canada has quite a bit going for it.  Economically – except for universal health care – their policies are light years ahead of our own.  They were headed down the European Socialist Gravy Train To Ruin the same as all the rest of us were – but they got off that disaster train more than a decade ago, and their economic footing is SOLID now as a result.  They avoided the incestuous banking/investment game that in 2008 sent the rest of the West into that tailspin; Canada, you’ll notice has emerged relatively unscathed because they decided not to participate in the ridiculous schemes to begin with.   But: “When the USA sneezes, Canada catches a cold” describes our outsize impact on Canada, and they seem to resent it.  Oh well, in general, I think we’re quite happy with each other.  Except for the disastrous effects of Obama, and in particular his selling Canada short, and his destruction of all trust, when it comes to commitment to energy policy.  To the point where Canada has given Obama the middle finger and is pursuing favored nation talks with the likes of Asian countries and China instead of us.  And every ounce of that is Obama’s fault.  It’s just another of the items for which I will NEVER forgive him.

    On Israel, I can say: The Mossad and the CIA are not friends, and they are only sometimes allies.  Israel will engage in active espionage against the US (and us against them as well).  The difference is, when Israel gains intelligence on us, they do NOT sell that intelligence to our Muslim or Russian or Chinese or North Korean enemies, nor to that fat f$&#ck Chavez down there in Venezuela.  This is a key point that illustrates that, yes, Israel is in fact one of the few countries that is a friend as well as an ally to the US.  They do not sell us out to our enemies.  Even when an unfriendly administration is in Israeli power, they don’t sell us out.  The same cannot be said of the US towards Israel.  Not during Carter; and DEFINITELY not during Obama.  Obama has repeatedly violated every standard of alliance and friendship when it comes to Israel.  They even sold Israel down the river a couple of years back, leaking vital security information to Israel’s ENEMIES.  ON PURPOSE!  If there is any one country on this earth that the Obama administration actively despises, hates, and again, *actively* tries to harm, it is Israel.

    It’s one of the reason’s Dinesh DSouza’s premise in 2016 Obama’s America rang so true to me.  The far-left anti-colonialist perspective sees that there are exactly, and only, two EVIL empires walking the face of this earth: The USA and Israel.  They are the only two evil entities.  Every one else is innocent or a bystander.  The Evil resides in the USA and Israel.  That fits with everything Obama has done in foreign policy.  Obama hates the America that is, and he hates Israel.  He doesn’t appear to pay much attention to anyone else.  So it rings true to me.


  • Bookworm

    Mike Devx:  Today’s news story seems to support your point.  The US has told Iran that, contrary to most expectations, it will sit things out should Israel and Iran go to war, as long as Iran doesn’t mess with American interests.  The U.S. is perfectly reasonable to do such a thing — putting national interest ahead of other things — but it’s not very friendly.

  • jj

    That’s a different topic, Book – Obama’s failure to think long-term, and consider – or even be aware that there could be – long-term consequences, strategic and otherwise.
    Danny, I didn’t do it!  I’m not hard on anybody.  Canada’s non-participation, even in its own defense through the Cold War – that’s history.  I simply read what they say, and watch what they do, and what Canada has going for it, economically and otherwise, is as a result of somebody else having pulled the line-item marked “defense” right off their budget.  Theirs even more than western Europe’s.  You’re welcome, eh!


    I am unable to open the Annual Survey on my computer. It may or may not shed light on the topic.

    Army Officer Poll: 74% Army Headed in Wrong Direction
    The Annual Survey of Army Leadership, conducted by U.S. Army’s Center for Army Leadership, asked 16,800 commissioned and non-commissioned officers to agree or disagree with the statement: “The Army is headed in the right direction to prepare for the challenges of the next 10 years.”…

  • Oldflyer

    Danny, whatever technology we have received from Israel has been paid for, top $$.  Although, I am not sure what you had in mind. Now, admittedly, for the most part, Israel pays for what they get–discounted of course.  Aircraft: F-4, A-4, F-16, F-15.  Missile defense–Patriot.  The list could get quite long.
    Howard.  That is so bogus.  The Israelis claimed that they did not see the huge American flag that was flown by the Liberty after the first phase of the attack, even though they were within visual range.  They claimed that they never heard the calls on the international distress frequencies.  Since, the U.S. government certainly did not want to admit that an “ally” had attacked our ship repeatedly,  and killed numerous Americans, they officially took them at their word.  To officially take any other position would have been devastating. Phooey, for want of stronger language.
    We should remain friends with Israel at all costs.  We should help to defend Israel in any way they need it.  We should never fool ourselves that we are allies; that Israel will jeopardize their interests in any manner, to support the U.S.
    Comments have been made that we have no real allies.  Believe that if you will, but I don’t buy it.  England, Australia, S. Korea, Poland, to name a hand full, have been along side in situations that they could easily have opted out of, but did not.
    I knew that my position would be controversial.  It is nonetheless accurate.