Stop the presses! This week Bernie Sanders shockingly announced that if he is elected president, he will demand a quid pro quo of Israel. In order for it to continue receiving U.S. military aid, the Vermont Red has proclaimed, Israel would have to “fundamentally change” its relationship with the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.
Holy mackerel! Bernie would place conditions on the granting of U.S. military aid to a foreign government? Is he aware that the current President of the United States is facing potential impeachment by the House of Representatives for allegedly having demanded a similar quid pro quo over the provision of U.S. military aid to Ukraine in exchange, allegedly, for Ukraine assisting Attorney General William Barr with a duly constituted Justice Department investigation, now a criminal investigation, into the provenance of a phony counterintelligence investigation by the Obama administration into the rival party’s 2016 presidential campaign?
Never mind that the Ukrainians were unaware that U.S. military aid – the quid in the quid pro quo – was being held up for Ukraine. Usually, you see, in quid pro quo discussions, both parties are typically aware of what the quid and the quo are. Also, never mind that Ukraine actually did receive the quid without agreeing to provide any quo. You heard that right. The U.S. sent the military aid anyway, regardless of whether Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky followed through with any assistance President Trump may have suggested in their July 25 phone call. I have to say, for a legendary dealmaker, President Trump sure didn’t impress with this one. He may need to write a new book: The Art of the Doormat.
Joe Biden is no rube, though. He saw instantly that Bernie’s use of U.S. military aid as leverage to achieve policy objectives with Israel was outrageous. Why not provide Biden’s exact quote? Lunch Bucket Joe said, “[T]he idea that we would draw [sic] military assistance from Israel on the condition that they change a specific policy I find to be absolutely outrageous.”
Putting aside the semi-incoherence of Joe’s statement or the merits of Joe and Bernie’s apparent shared desire to dictate to Israel what its domestic policies regarding the building of settlements, the flow of goods, and the mobility of its own residents in disputed territories should be, the issue here is whether the United States should be tying strings to aid we are giving to foreign governments. Bernie clearly says yes, we should attach conditions to the aid, and Joe clearly says no.
Back in the day when I was working on a graduate degree in international affairs, I distinctly recall learning about something called “soft power.” The idea is that the United States, being a mighty economic giant, had tools at its disposal to affect the behavior of other countries without having to resort to “hard power” – military force. Soft power abjures the stick, and largely relies on the carrot, often in the form of the granting or withholding of economic or military assistance in one form or another, to convince a foreign country to go along with a U.S. administration’s preferred policy.
The strategy has a long and storied history in U.S. diplomacy. The Marshall Plan leaps to mind immediately. The Marshall Plan, or the European Recovery Program, was probably the grandest and arguably most successful use of international U.S. economic assistance in the history of such programs. The Plan called for the disbursement of $12 billion (real money in those days) beginning in 1948 to the war-torn countries of Europe. One of the principal objectives of Marshall Plan aid was to encourage its recipients to reject Communism and to build democratic, capitalist-based societies from the rubble of World War II. It was by virtually any measure a great success.
Now, suddenly, a president tying some condition to the release of aid to a foreign government (which, again, President Trump did not do in his call with Zelensky) is an impeachable offense, if you listen to virtually any Democrat in range of a microphone. Mentioning to the recipient country’s president that there was some mighty shady stuff going on with Joe and Hunter Biden and asking that President Zelensky talk to an independent interlocutor in the form of Rudy Guiliani, is somehow the greatest scandal ever. Never mind that Ukrainian prosecutors for months prior to Rudy Giuliani’s initial involvement in examining the issue in the fall of 2018 had desperately been trying to warn American law enforcement officials about the corruption of the Bidens and Burisma in that country.
The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, had refused to provide those prosecutors with visas to come to the U.S. to present evidence about the corrupt dealings with the Ukrainian oil and gas company Burisma, which was paying Hunter Biden, who had zero experience in oil and gas, or with Ukraine, and his company millions of dollars for… what exactly? The oft-quoted figure thrown about of $50,000 per month going to Hunter from Burisma actually far understates the amount of money paid to Biden and his firm, Rosemont Seneca Bohai. For at least a year-and-a-half, Hunter and his cronies were paid over $166,000 per month in “consulting fees,” according to bank records obtained by the FBI in an unrelated case, per John Solomon.
Sweet gig, if you can find it.
The point is, Bernie might be misguided in what he wants Israel to do with respect to its policies involving the Gaza Strip, but Bernie is not off the mark in suggesting that US military or economic aid to a foreign government should come with “strings attached” that are designed to achieve the US Administration’s preferred policy objectives.
Let’s just hope it’s not a Bernie Sanders administration Israel has to deal with in 2021.
William F. Marshall has been an intelligence analyst and investigator in the government, private, and non-profit sectors for more than 30 years. He is a senior investigator for Judicial Watch, Inc., the host of the JW podcast Inside Report, and a contributor to Townhall, American Thinker, and The Federalist. (The views expressed are the author’s alone, and not necessarily those of Judicial Watch.)