Monday, May 23, 2011

Memo to Jennifer Rubin: Israel's QME has nothing to do with the U.S. defense budget

In an unsurprisingly derivative and unconvincing argument about the need for GOP presidential aspirants to oppose cuts to the defense budget, the Post's resident expert-on-everything couldn't help but take a dig at the Obama administration's imaginarily insufficient future military support for Israel:
[The president] bragged at AIPAC :

Because we understand the challenges Israel faces, I and my administration have made the security of Israel a priority. It’s why we’ve increased cooperation between our militaries to unprecedented levels. It’s why we’re making our most advanced technologies available to our Israeli allies. And it’s why, despite tough fiscal times, we’ve increased foreign military financing to record levels.
That includes additional support — beyond regular military aid — for the Iron Dome anti-rocket system. This is a powerful example of American-Israel cooperation which has already intercepted rockets from Gaza and helped saved innocent Israeli lives. So make no mistake, we will maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge.
How’s he going to do all that if he keeps taking a chain saw to the defense budget? It is, as with his deficit plan and refusal to alter unsustainable entitlement programs, a refusal to level with the public and to lead.
It's funny you should ask, Ms. Rubin, because there's a perfectly good answer. And it speaks to the question of who it is, exactly, that refuses to level with the public.

Israel is the recipient of the largest share of American military assistance by an extremely large margin. How large? Just over $3 billion of the five and a half billion set aside for foreign military financing (FMF) worldwide, as a matter of fact. (The next-highest amount for a single country, as you may have heard in recent months, is Egypt's $1.3 billion.) This THREE BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR comes as part of a 2007 commitment by the U.S. government of $30 billion in military assistance to Israel over the next ten years -- a pledge that candidate Obama insisted he would honor, and that President Obama shows no sign of failing to honor. If that's not enough, Israel is the only recipient of U.S. military assistance permitted to use grant aid to purchase defense articles and services from its own armaments industry, not the U.S.

While we're on the subject, want to know something interesting about that military aid and its relationship to the defense budget? Well, there is no relationship between the two. FMF is a part of the International Security Assistance section of the Foreign Operations account... that's right, the State Department's budget, not the defense budget. You know, the one your buddies on the Hill want to slash?

Iron Dome is another interesting example. How could the U.S. possibly continue its financial support for an Israeli rocket and missle defense system in a time of shrinking budgets? Surely this would be among the first of the cuts, especially considering the Obama administration's manifest eagerness to betray the Jewish state. Strange, but recent history doesn't bear this out. The president requested $205 million in the FY 11 budget to help the Israelis pay for Iron Dome. In case you're worried about Congressional support, don't: the House approved the request by a 410-4 vote. And when shutdown-averting continuing appropriation finally passed last month, that $205 million earmark was included in a $415 million carve-out of the Defense RDT&E fund dedicated solely to Israeli cooperative programs. That was enough for PM Netanyahu to express "his deep appreciation for U.S. funding of the 'Iron Dome' rocket and mortar defense system" to President Obama during an April 18th phone call. I guess he's not worried about the bits of the U.S. defense budget that are dedicated to paying for Israeli defensive systems, at least.

And as for "making our most advanced technologies available to our Israeli allies," well, that doesn't cost us anything at all beyond what's been talked about above: the safe-as-safe-gets cooperative R&D account and the free money to purchase U.S. gear that's included in the foreign aid budget.

So "how's he going to do all that" if the defense budget gets cut? Easy: the same way we've been doing it all along.

Now who's refusing to level with the public, Ms. Rubin? Are you ignorant of these facts, or simply disingenuous?