How the U.S. Came to Appreciate Israel as a Strategic Asset

June 29, 2020 | Yoram Ettinger
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In 1950, Omar Bradley, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, argued that Washington ought to treat the IDF—which had demonstrated its effectiveness in the 1948 war—as a reliable partner in protecting American interests in the region. But his recommendations were dismissed by a State Department that continued to see Israel as a liability. The degree to which Bradley’s view has since become mainstream is made evident by joint exercises undertaken by the Israeli and American air forces in March, writes Yoram Ettinger:

While Israel benefits from the unprecedented, multiple capabilities of the U.S. air force, the latter leverages the unique operational experience of its Israeli counterpart. The Israeli military, in general, and Israel’s air force, in particular, have emerged as the most cost-effective, battle-tested laboratory for the U.S. defense industries and armed forces.

In fact, Israel’s air-force battle experience and technological capabilities contributed to the development of the F-35, systematically enhancing its capabilities, by sharing with the U.S. manufacturer operational, maintenance, and repair lessons. This flow of Israeli experience . . . has spared American defense industries many years of costly research and development, and has advanced U.S. competitiveness in the global market. . . . Moreover, the unique combat experience of Israeli pilots—who always fly within the range of enemies’ radar and missiles—has yielded more daring and innovative battle tactics, which are regularly shared with the American air force.

As Ettinger goes on to catalogue, the reversal of the American attitude happened gradually, but the main turning point came with the Six-Day War:

The June 1967 war transformed Israel into the most effective power-projecting U.S. beachhead in the Middle East and beyond, extending Washington’s strategic reach with no need for additional American troops on the ground. The resounding Israeli victory obliterated the military posture of then-radical, pro-Soviet Egypt, aborting an Egyptian drive to become the effective pan-Arab leader, . . . while toppling pro-U.S. Arab regimes. [In addition], a team of 25 American military experts . . . spent three months in Israel, studying Israel’s battle tactics and scrutinizing Soviet military systems captured by Israel.

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