David R. Henderson  

Corinne Sauer on U.S. Subsidies to Middle East

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After getting various comments on my post about ending U.S. government aid to the Middle East, I asked Corinne Sauer if she would read the comments and give me her take. She has done so.

To recall, Corinne Sauer is co-founder and executive director of the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies, a free-market think tank in Israel. She and her husband, Robert Sauer, who is co-founder and President at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies, advocated ending all U.S. government aid to Israel, Egypt, and other countries in the Middle East.

Here is her response, which she has given me permission to post:

1) We are demanding a cut in US aid for all Middle Eastern countries and not just Israel. The cuts could be gradual and implemented over a period of 10 years for example (10% cut each year).
2) US military aid to Israel represents around 1.2% of Israel's GDP which could easily be replaced by further growth in the local armament industry.
3) Russia and China never really stepped in to help Egypt or other countries in the region. I actually think that if U.S. aid was cut for all (including Israel), not only would Russia and China not "replace" U.S. aid to the Arab countries, but also they might cut their own programs.
4) We are in favor of having joint programs with the U.S., as equal partners, when both sides see a benefit.

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CATEGORIES: Political Economy

COMMENTS (6 to date)
RPB writes:

Part of the problem rests with the ability of Israel (to recoup lost GDP, pay for additional arms expenditures) to supply China with high technology weapons (including US systems). While, there is suspicion this already happens, it does not happen on a grand scale. This could escalate substantially if aid is cut off. But, then again, US is basically Israel's only ally in the world.

But the fact still remains that many Islamic terrorists and others cite their hatred of the US as causal to the US's special support of Israel. Are we to ignore the fact that in nearly every message major terrorists speak of US/Israeli collusion and of their extreme hate for the US because of its support for Israel? On many levels it can be argued there would be no need for Israeli "help" on Arab terrorism problems because we would no longer support one strong reason why they hate us.

Of course, there are other reasons why they despise us, particularly our military presence in Saudi Arabia. But do we really need to spend billions per year arming a rich, martially-inclined, first world country?

Arguments about them being a democracy and therefore subject to aid I find incredibly droll. (Who cares, I thought 'Democratic Peace Theory' was dead) Surely they give us aid with respect to intelligence and 'behind the scenes work', but the relationship has been hardly symbiotic from all indicators one can possibly see. (Arab Oil Embargo, many billions of aid, inability to use Israel as a forward base, generations of Arab resentment, etc).

And besides, we could certainly use/waste that money on whatever the next 'cause du jour' of the governing classes happens to be.

Ken B writes:

One of the standard charges made against the kind of hands off approach DRH generally advocates is that it is merely a front for anti-semitism. It is not, and arguments like the one presented here make that clear. I am pleased to see a cogent argument that does not seem to embody a special animus towards Israel.

Alas, based on a sample size of one, I see that not all commenters share my feelings.

Pave Low John writes:

Interesting. We have an organization that believes in cutting all aid to all nations in the Middle East and they told you that "We believe in cutting all aid to all nations in the Middle East...and here are 4 reasons why." Not exactly a shock that they feel this way, right? I would be tempted to classify this as an "appeal to authority" fallacy, except I have no idea who these two are or why I should be listening to their opinion on this subject, hence a lack of "authority" to appeal to.

However, I like how they throw in the qualifiers. "I think Russian and China might reduce their programs" or "Russia and China never really stepped in to help Egypt." They do seem to realize there is a lot more going on behind the scenes that they may not know about, so maybe they don't see this as such a clear-cut issue after all.

Biggest missing piece, though, is their silence on the subject of access. They probably know that governments work on a quid pro quo basis, but they aren't going to mention that not-so-small fact in their analysis. Who knows, maybe they have a good case for not having access to countries in that region. I would be fascinated to hear it.

I think it was Churchill (it always seems to be Churchill, doesn't it? Either him or George Bernard Shaw) that said that nations don't have friends, they have interests. Well, it is in U.S. interests to give aid to countries in the Middle East so that we have access to their intelligence services, military assets, economic programs, etc...

Not to sound pessimistic, but it may be a little tough making a realistic argument against any country (especially Israel) pursuing their own national interests, regardless of any personal feelings on the subject. I'm sure there is a "short-term vs. long-term" argument to be made, I just don't see it in the short blurb above.

Pave Low John writes:

Although I disagree with the bulk of his post (apparently, Arab hate is an on/off switch, we just need to abandon Israel and voila, the hate goes away), RPB is correct about the "behind the scenes" stuff, my old squadron used to make trips to Israel to fly against their ECM range. Pretty valuable training for our crews (especially since Israel has some unique systems and tactics we don't see in the U.S.)

Does anyone really think Israel will let the U.S. have "access" to that range if we cut off all aid and just, I don't know, ask nicely?

That is just one example, I'm sure there are legions of others that aren't exactly public knowledge. That is the problem with having a debate about something like this, we have no idea what is really going on "behind the scenes." That money might very well be used in an extremely useful way, we just won't know about it and thus demand it be withdrawn because "we" aren't privy to what we are getting in return.

Ken B writes:

The quote about nations and friends is from Lord Palmerston, but the idea goes back a long way!

David Henderson Author Profile Page writes:

"I have no idea who these two are."
I bet that's right, Pave Low John. After all, to have an idea who these two are, you would have actually had to have read my short statement above about who these two are.

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