Would we be better off if we moved Israel to North Dakota?

This week President Obama was interviewed on Charlie Rose. He justified us getting involved in Syria with this logic. “We’ve got serious interests there. And not only humanitarian interests; we can’t have the situation of ongoing chaos in a major country that borders a country like Jordan which in turn borders Israel.”

Ignore for a moment the sheer stupidity of this argument. Really, by that token we should protect Alaska by nuking Helsinki, since Finland borders Russia which in turn borders Alaska. I voted for this guy twice–the first time because I thought he was principled and smart and the second time because I thought he was at least smart. Looks like I was wrong about that one, too.

The point is that much of the mess we have made of the Middle East comes from our support of Israel.

Each year we give Israel $3 BB in direct military aid. All told, since the end of WWII, we have given Israel at least $118 billion dollars of support.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. We also fund military programs whose utility is solely based on their value to Israel. That is, why would a large country protected by two oceans need to protect itself against short range missiles (Arrow program) or radar to identify short range missiles (X-band program)? Well, it wouldn’t. We also fund loan guarantees and various humanitarian programs. We have a special deal where Israel gets their military aid in a lump sum at the first of the year, while everyone else gets it in installments throughout the year. And of course, there’s the enormous (and deliberately undocumented) costs of fighting multiple wars intended at least in part to keep Israel safe.

There’s a cheaper way to accomplish the same thing. What if we just moved Israel to North Dakota? Or California? Or Alaska? Israel is tiny, tiny, tiny – 8500 square miles. There are 17 COUNTIES in the U.S. bigger than that. And it only has a population of eight million, about the size of one of our major cities and its suburbs. Israel would hardly be noticed if you dropped it into North Dakota–filling up only aroung a tenth of the state, and with only 700,000 residents, one third of which live in five cities, North Dakotans might not even know they’re there.

The biggest problem to that plan wouldn’t be Democrats or Republicans, both of whom love Israel for different reasons, but Israelis themselves. Sure, they’d get a safe environment and greater opportunities for their children, but they’d have to give up beaches. And if there’s one thing we’ve learned from all those dopes who retire to Hurricane Alley, proximity to beaches is a highly prized good. OK, then, move them to Imyo County in California. They can still get to the beach and Imyo County has Death Valley, which isn’t so different from the Dead Sea.

Admittedly, fifty years of war has created a unique Israeli culture, and one that is more easily admired from a distance than from up close. Israelis can be intense and sometimes a little more practical that we’re comfortable with. I once interviewed an Israeli MBA for a job who said his greatest career accomplishment was being part of a secret team who “took care of” problem Muslims around the world, “including Toronto,” he boasted. And then there are the ultras – just what we need in this country, more religious wingnuts. (Still, the sheer entertainment value of having armed Israel settlers moving into Alabama and Arizona might be worth the heartburn).

Of course, this still would not end all the problems in the Middle East. We still have oil interests to protect there. And no doubt tinpot politicians would continue to use the U.S. as an excuse for their own incompetence, Israel or no Israel. But it would sure make it harder.

The alternative is to continue pouring money and effort into a tiny country in an unsustainable situation. Sooner or later, the large countries around Israel are going to wipe it out. It will be a lot better for the Israelis, and for us, if we face up to this and start thinking about Plan B.

17 replies »

  1. “Still, the sheer entertainment value of having armed Israel settlers moving into Alabama and Arizona might be worth the heartburn.” Pretty funny. North Dakota is a better idea than the Nazis had about sending Jews to Madagascar. Still, you’re forgetting about the whole Holy Land thing. You’d have to bring the earth they live on with them.

    • Not sure this is a problem.

      1. The main requirement for land to be holy is that some other religion wants it. That is, Sikh’s only care about temples built on top of Hindu sites, etc, etc. Muslims and Christians. I’ sure ND is sacred to some Native American people, I mean everywhere is pretty much sacred ground to somebody, right? If not, how hard would it be for “documentation” to appear claiming it is? So we could start with “holy” land, small caps.
      2. Then we could turn it into Holy Land through the same ingenuity that brought New York, Paris and Luxor to Las Vegas. Think “Holy Land! The Experience.” Think what Steve Wynn could do to the Temple. And once Disney gets hold of the Wailing Wall, it will be a Wailing, Rocking and Rolling Wall. Who knows? This might even turn into Branson for Jews.

      I’m telling you. There’s something here.

  2. Great, then North Dakota would have nukes. That’d piss off the Canadians and next thing you know the UN would send in Somalians wearing blue berets and carrying Russian AK’s to quell the border dispute. Now how’s that going to play in Fargo?

    Besides which as Russ stated, Israel is the epicenter of a mythology so ancient and so mind bendingly powerful that no logic can assuage hearts bent on killing for it. Mullah or Rabbi, ultra-orthodox militancy is something I hope we never experience on any large scale in this country.

    • Frank

      ND already has nukes. Isn’t that where the siloes are?

      But you’re right. Before you know it, the Israelis would have managed to pick a fight with the Canadians. Wouldn’t be an easy thing to do, but that truculent lot could manage it. Israelis could get the Dalai Lama so worked up he’d bust a beer bottle over their heads. They have a knack for international relations.

      (Joke: How do you get a mob of drunken, rowdy Canadians to leave a bar? You ask them)

      Unjoke: You’re right. Once people believe God is instructing them, bad things happen.


      • Good point Otherwise, you are of course correct. North Dakota has had nuclear crotch crickets for many moons…and maybe sending the IDF up for a border winter or two as you suggest would cool those hotheads down. Israel is a huge problem for the US, and your solution is perhaps more logical than any of the others tried and failed since it’s creation some 66 very odd years ago.

        We are probably going to see tactical nuclear warfare in our lifetime and odds are about 99% sure it will be an attack from or on Israel. All parties will claim that their one true God is on their side and glass parking lots will proliferate like peeper frogs in a soft spring rain,

        Dumb humans, dumb dumb dumb fucking humans.

      • Before you know it, the Israelis would have managed to pick a fight with the Canadians.

        Things would be fine right up until the Israelis starting building settlements in Winnipeg.

  3. Sorry, but this post shows a shocking ignorance and reductio ad absurdum mentality that leaves me a bit baffled about where to start. Granted, there are itching but grey hats in the Middle East, these days, but jeez.

    You cannot in one breath equate Jordan to Russia in respect to their value as a geographic buffer, and in the next breath bitch that Israel is so small that we have _counties_ that are larger. Likewise, the argument that short-range missile defense and detection is solely for Israel’s benefit completely ignores the fact that, um, we have soldiers in the field. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? Not to mention soldiers in foreign bases. Again. Jeez!

    But where you dip from the ludicrous/ignorant into the offensive is by suggesting that one homeland is as good as any other. The any people from anywhere and suggest that anywhere else would be as good. Take the people of _North Dakota_ and suggest to them that Israel would be just as good a place for them to live, and see what sort of response you get.

    My my my. Obviously we’re at the “rogue” end of the Scholars and Rogues blog now.

    • i think the reflexive tendency of many in america to jump to the defense of israel regardless is part of the problem.

      1. i may disagree with you, but it’s not ignorance. i’ve been to israel, as well as 40 other countries. israel is a bully who only survives because of US handouts. its only saving grace is that it’s in a region with even more obnoxious governments.
      2. the idea of using one country as a geographic buffer against another is the absurd point, not the comparison of jordan to russia. ask lebanon how they liked being a buffer, since it destroyed the most stable and successful nation in the middle east. ask the US how using Mexico as a buffer against south american drugs has worked.
      3. isn’t “one homeland is as good as another,” pretty much what the israelis have told the palestinians?
      4. sadly, “our soldiers in the field” are only there because of Israel.

      i try to suffer fools gladly, but this time i failed.

    • OK, I trashed my first reply to this. Let me try to find something reasonable in your comment and address it.

      The problem is not is not with the comparison of Jordan and Russia as buffer states. Of course, Russia is bigger than Jordan. The absurd idea here is the idea of “buffer states.” The US used Lebanon as a buffer state for Israel and it got Lebanon destroyed. The US tried to use Mexico as a buffer state against Colombian drugs and that is destroying Mexico. When Obama, or you, implies that it’s OK to use Jordan as a buffer state for Israel, it’s de facto suggesting that Jordan be sacrificed for Israel.

      Similarly, no one homeland is not as good as another, but that’s exactly what Israel and the US have told the Palestinians. Land is land, folks, be happy.

      Finally, the only wars in which our soldiers could concievably be protected by Arrow and X-band are the wars we fight for Israel. Move Israel to N. Dakota, and our soldiers won’t need those systems.

      I don’t actually know what happened to Amanda Knox and you don’t either, although I do think Doug Preston made a good case for the incompetence of the Italian police. But I do know quite a bit about geopolitics. I’ve spent time in Israel and in forty other countries.

  4. Your other post about rednecks has some lovely pontificating about the evils of racism. Meanwhile, in this one: “And if there’s one thing we’ve learned from all those dopes who retire to Hurricane Alley, proximity to beaches is a highly prized good.” Note the sloppy slide from “Israel” (as a political issue) to “Jews”, or rather a lame stereotype of Jewish retirees. There’s a word for that: racism. In fact the whole pretext of this joke is the notion that “we” can just move Jewish people wherever “we” want to put them. As someone commented above, “North Dakota is a better idea than the Nazis had about sending Jews to Madagascar.” That person gets the joke exactly. It is a variant of the Nazi idea. No big news there, there are plenty of racists around, but I don’t see why you describe yourself as “progressive”.

    • Hmmmmm. Believe it or not, it never even occurred to me that Jews retired to Florida. I was thinking about some former colleagues of mine from Booz Allen who moved to Sanibel and Boca Raton. But yes, had that been my intent, it would have been racist and nasty, and I now see how you made that connection. Sorry about that. Accidental on my part. If you read enough of my posts, you’ll find I think we’re all racist and bigoted to some degree. The only difference is how much we recognize it and try to deal with it.

      I never said a word about forced relocation. You went there. In fact, I implied the exact opposite with the Imyo County joke. We could simply send everyone in Israel a passport, $50K in relocation allowance, and cut off military aid. Let those who want to relocate, relocate. Let the others stay.

      The point I was trying to make is that Israel is an unsustainable state and a ruinously expensive proposition.

      For the record, I’m actually pro Israel. I remember 9-11 and scenes of Egyptian teens dancing in the streets. Israel stood with us. I don’t forget my friends. However, I am pretty generally against American apologists for Israel, most of whom I find to be very thin skinned and woolly minded, e.g., the horrible and callous idea of using Jordan as a “buffer state.”

      • Then I don’t get your humor. But anyway, if you say that’s not what you meant then I take you at your word. Apology accepted, let’s move on.

        The main point is that “Israeli”, “Jew”, and “supporter of Israeli policy” are 3 different categories.

        I don’t know about pro- or anti- Israel. I am pro-peace, anti-oppression. If you look at the Middle East not with a racial filter but a political and cultural one, then what you see are liberals, conservatives, religious, secular, hawks, pacifists, etc. For example, to people on the outside, the settlers are “Jews”. To my friends in Israel, the settlers are “Americans”– specifically, gun-toting American yahoos who come to Israel to stake their claim and live out their Hollywood fantasies, all at the expense of prospects for peace and justice.

    • We were discussing carving out a portion of our own country to make room among ourselves for a group of people we’re worried about Dave. A humorous thought that actually has a lot of merit if we could overcome the myriad roadblocks described above.

      That is in no way a variant of the idea of forcibly gathering a perceived underclass and herding them out of our country with instructions never to return. Unless you consider opposites to be variants?

      And of course every human carries racist traits. It’s a vestigial genetic remnant of early tribal instinct that will be with us long past your or my last breath. We have claws and teeth too but most of us don’t fight with them anymore.

      It didn’t take long to hit Godwin’s law in this discussion!

  5. Oklahoma would be a better state, imo. No oil boom, lots of room, few people… just a big state that needs a good infusion of initiative.
    Everyone would be better off.! Seriously. The problem between arabs and israelis’ has no answer. They each think the territory is theirs by birthright. They will fight forever.