Since returning to the CNN airwaves, Lou Dobbs has reinvented himself as something of an all-purpose pundit. No longer confining himself to only business matters, Mr. Dobbs now tackles all matters of subjects, offering opinions that range from conservative (he was one of the first to call for real border security) to liberal (check out this 2004 commentary on "outsourcing jobs) and sometimes, just plain stupid.
Unfortunately, Dobbs's latest effort falls in that latter category. He questions U.S. policies in the current crisis in the Middle East, resurrecting the tired talking point that the U.S. gives too much aid and support to Israel, while ignoring other countries in the region. The implication of course, is that anti-American sentiments in the Middle East are exacerbated by our alliance with Tel Aviv.
While the United States provides about $2.5 billion in military and economic aid to Israel each year, U.S. aid to Lebanon amounts to no more than $40 million. This despite the fact that the per capita GDP of Israel is among the highest in the world at $24,600, nearly four times as high as Lebanon's GDP per capita of $6,200.
Lebanon's lack of wealth is matched by the Palestinians -- three out of every four Palestinians live below the poverty line. Yet the vast majority of our giving in the region flows to Israel. This kind of geopolitical inconsistency and shortsightedness has contributed to the Arab-Israeli conflict that the Western world seems content to allow to perpetuate endlessly.
Let me get this straight. Following Dobbs's logic (or lack thereof), the U.S. could improve its posture in the area--and possibly, decrease the violence--by simply giving more aid to other Middle Eastern countries, and being more even-handed in our dealings across that troubled region.
It sounds nice, but there are more holes in Lou's argument that the proverbial block of Swiss cheese. Let's begin with his figures on foreign aid. True, Israel receives more U.S. aid dollars than any other country (roughly $2.7 billion a year), but he ignores the fact that the #2 ,#3 and #4 recipients of our foreign aid largesse are Muslim nations, Egypt, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In fact, 6 of the top 10 countries on the aid list are Muslim, or have a significant Muslim population. Add the combined receipts for these countries, and you'll find the aid total more than matches our annual allocation to Israel. Not that anyone should object; Egpyt, Afghanistan and Pakistan are key allies in the War on Terror, and the U.S. has important partnerships with other Muslim nations on the top 10 list.
Dobbs also ignores the fact that much of our aid to Israel is used for defense programs. He would probably argue that such aid is irresponsible, since Israeli weapons are being used to kill Lebanese and Palestinian civilians, thus perpetuating the constant cycle of violence. But he fails to mention that the U.S. has a vested interest in Israel's ability to defend itself. Some of the programs funded with American dollars are devoted to joint projects (namely missile defense) that can save American lives as well.
But most glaringly, Dobbs seems to believe that a more balanced approach will win friends and influence people in an always-voliatle region. Once again, the numbers disprove his claim. In the late 1990s, the Heritage Foundation compared the voting records of countries that received the most foreign aid from the U.S. Their study revealed that 74% of U.S. aid recipients voted against us a majority of the time in the U.N. Among the ten nations that received the most aid, six of those voted against the U.S. more than half the time. So much for buying friends.
Finally, there's the question of what exactly we would get for increased aid to Lebanon. The nation was dominated by Syria (a candidate member of the Axis of Evil) for more than 30 years, until the "Cedar Revolution" of 2005. Even today, Damascus exerts an inordinate influence on Lebanese affairs, so it's a good bet that increased aid for Lebanon would wind up in the hands of Syrian proxies, or (worse yet) factions aligned with their terrorist friends from Hizballah.
Dobbs also notes the suffering of the Palestinian people, most of whom live in poverty. Gee, Lou, do you think 40 years of corrupt leadership under Yasser Arafat had anything to do with that. His "widow" resides in opulence in Paris--wonder how many U.S. aid dollars were used to feather her nest? And, do you think that the "new" Hamas-led government would be a better steward of U.S. aid dollars?
Mr. Dobbs believes we're not very smart when it comes to our dealings in the Middle East. I disagree--in fact, when it comes to Mideast policy, it looks like CNN's general-purpose pundit is stuck on stupid.
If you want similar words of wisdom, hold your nose, and check out the latest offering from that closet anti-Semite, Patrick J. Buchanan.