Behind the Headlines Top U.S. Military Journal Criticizes White House Strategist on Mideast
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Behind the Headlines Top U.S. Military Journal Criticizes White House Strategist on Mideast

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Major guidelines for U.S. Middle East policy set forth by William B. Quandt, the chief strategist in the White House on Arab-Israeli affairs, are criticized in the current issue of Strategic Review, the elite American military quarterly. In comparison, the critic was inclined to look favorably on the perceptions for U.S. strategic approaches by Joseph Churba, former chief of Middle East intelligence for the U.S. Air Force, whose views resulted in his forced resignation from the Pentagon.

The appraisals on the thinking of the two experts were made by Dr. Charles M. Perry, a research associate at the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., on the basis of recent books by Quondt and Churba. The Strategic Review is published by the U.S. Strategic Institute, a tax-exempt organization in Washington not affiliated with a particular military service. Its purpose is to study “national security in the nuclear age.”

“Just as Churba may overplay the Soviet-American rivalry and the strategic value of Israel, Quandt seems to understate the importance of both factors,” Perry wrote in an attempt at even-handed criticism. However, his general analysis on the substantive issues distinctly leaned in Churba’s direction.

Quandt is on the National Security Council (NSC) staff headed by Zbigniew Brzezinski and blueprints Middle East strategy in concert with the State Department’s foremost specialists. Ambassador-at-Large Alfred Atherton and Assistant Secretary of State Harold Saunders. Reviewing Quandt’s “Decade of Decisions,” Perry outlined three criticisms of his analysis of the Middle East situation as it pertains to the United States.

As an “example” of his first criticism, Perry wrote that Quandt “suggests” that in the September 1970 Jordan crisis, former President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, then head of the NSC, “placed far too much emphasis on the “lessons” of the crisis in which, Perry says, “it appeared that the threat of joint U.S.-Israeli military action forced the Soviets to restrain Syrian intervention.”


In Quandt’s opinion, Perry wrote, “subsequent American policy over-stressed” the U.S.-Soviet “dimension of Middle East hostilities, as well as the role that a well-armed Israel might play toward enhancing regional stability.” Perry added: “It is at least arguable that U.S.-Israeli signals to Moscow, as well as to Damascus, helped convince the Syrians to withdraw from Jordan. Moreover, from the perspective of U.S. strategy, Israel clearly played a useful role throughout the Jordan crisis, demonstrating its utility as a regional ally and its potential role as a secure base for U.S. military operations in the Middle East.”

In his second criticism, Perry says “while Quandt may be correct in discrediting the nation that a military balance favorable to Israel would alone deter Arab action…there are several more important reasons for the U.S. to support Israeli superiority.”

Israel, he noted, “relies on technological superiority to compensate for her geographic and demographic Vulnerability,” and “moreover, in the context of further Israeli territorial withdrawals, it will become more, rather than less, difficult for Israel to strike an adequate balance between geography, demography and military technology, particularly if the flow of U.S. weapon systems and supportive equipment is restrained. Dr. Quandt would do well to play closer attention to these points when discussing the military balance and U.S. arms sales policy in the Middle East.”

Discussing his third criticism of Quandt’s views, Perry found “some difficulty reconciling” Quandt’s emphasis on the regional, rather than global, determinants of the Arab-Israeli conflict,” with “Quandt’s suggestion that U.S. policy follow the guidelines of the well-known peace plan published by the Brookings Institution” which Perry noted Quandt helped to author.

“In calling explicitly for Israeli withdrawal to the June 1967 borders, as well as for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, the Brookings plan rejudges–prior to Arab-Israel negotiations the territorial concessions required by U.N. Resolution 242,” Perry wrote. “This position, it seems to me, is not likely to inspire Israeli confidence in American peace-making activities.”


Regarding Churba’s “The Politics of Defeat,” Perry wrote, Churba “contents that the paramount American interest in the Middle East is politico-strategic namely “to prevent the area from falling under the domination of the Soviet Union and being manipulated against the West.”

To this, Perry added that Churba’s “central thesis is that “Israel has been, and hopefully will remain, an invaluable strategic asset for the U.S., serving as a stable bastion against Soviet influence and providing an alternative, via the Israeli Defense Force, to direct American intervention as in the September 1970 Jordan crisis… In short, Israel stands as America’s only proven and reliable ally in the Middle East, and, in association with Turkey, Iran and hopefully a Christian Lebanon could well emerge as a central regional linchpin in the U.S. western security structure.”

Basically, Perry continued, “I have little quarrel with Churba’s estimation of Israel’s strategic value to the U.S., or with his concern for Israeli concerns in the wake of the post 1973 military buildups among the surrounding Arab states.” He observed, however, that “Churba overstates the case” regarding “Soviet manipulation” in the Middle East, “conferring upon Moscow a degree of influence which is yet to be proven.”

Perry said that he is “disappointed that neither author has made amore rigorous attempt to draw together the global and regional components of U.S. Mideast policy, stressing the interplay between American strategic interests and the pressures for a more concerted American diplomatic effort toward peace in the Middle East.”

The U.S., he said, “now must contend with a host of regional and global trends,” including the proliferation of advanced weapon systems, the loss of overseas bases, and Soviet naval expansion “at a time when American dependence on oil supplies from the Persian Gulf-Arabian Peninsula area is increasing and the need for friendly elations with the major oil producers-especially Saudi Arabia–seems pressing. Inevitably, such factors–which are largely geopolitical will influence the way American policymakers approach the question of on Arab-Israeli settlement.”

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