Best Defense

Why South Korea and others should take a page from Israel in how to handle the U.S.

By Adrian Lewis Best Defense guest columnist The Creation of Cultural Amity: the Israeli Policy and Strategy, a Lesson and Model for South Korea, and other Small, Democratic Nation-States in Tough Neighborhoods Amity, from the Latin, amicus, friend, friendly. Friendship and goodwill especially as characterized by mutual acceptance and toleration of potentially antagonistic standpoints or ...


By Adrian Lewis

Best Defense guest columnist

The Creation of Cultural Amity: the Israeli Policy and Strategy, a Lesson and Model for South Korea, and other Small, Democratic Nation-States in Tough Neighborhoods

Amity, from the Latin, amicus, friend, friendly. Friendship and goodwill especially as characterized by mutual acceptance and toleration of potentially antagonistic standpoints or aim (so the two women kept up an elaborate pretense of warm amity); specifically: friendly relations between large groups (nations striving for lasting amity).
The North Korean Threat. U.S. intelligence agencies believe that [in 2004] North Korea has "one, possibly two" nuclear weapons. It agreed to freeze its nuclear weapons program in a 1994 deal with the United States but is now preparing to resume those activities. If unchecked, experts say, North Korea could produce five to seven nuclear bombs this year — and eight to 10 by the end of 2005 — enough to alter the strategic balance in East Asia. North Korea is probably capable of deploying nuclear or chemical warheads on ballistic missiles able to strike South Korea and Japan, and it has worked on the Taepo Dong-2 missile, which has an estimated range that could include Alaska.

In December 2012, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) successfully launched a three-stage rocket that placed a satellite in orbit. In February 2013, the DPRK/North Korea tested its third nuclear weapon. Following the test, on 12 February during a debate at the United Nations, North Korean diplomat Jon Yong Ryong threatened South Korea, the Republic of Korea (ROK), with "final destruction." And, on 5 March, North Korea threatened to nullify the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War in 1953, suggesting a state of war will again exist between the two countries. In April, the leader of the DPRK threatened South Korea and the United States with nuclear war and prepared to launch missiles. For decades there has been a persistent threat of war from North Korea. When the DPRK achieves the technological ability to place a nuclear warhead on its new missile, the new, young dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, will have the ability to destroy Seoul, South Korea and Tokyo, Japan, fulfilling the threat made at United Nations. Alone, neither South Korea nor Japan possesses the ability to guarantee the security of its people. Only the military power of the United States can guarantee their national security, and the sustainment and commitment of that military power, is at least in part, a function of cultural amity.

Let me give you an argument: Cultural amity is a critical element in the national security of nation-states. This argument is particularly true of smaller nation-states dependent upon the military power of larger, more powerful nation-states for their security. The nation-state of Israel has created genuine affection, genuine concern, a very real cultural amity for itself in the hearts of many Americans. And this amity, to a large degree, guarantees the security and prosperity of the state of Israel. Cultural amity gives Israel the ability to influence decision-making in Washington. It gives Israel the ability to acquire resources and guarantees. The American people have been extraordinarily generous to the state of Israel. Few nations in history have been as generous to a foreign state, thousands of miles from its geographic borders. Cultural amity facilitates the Israeli acquisition of billions of dollars in economic and military assistance from the United States annually. It ties the American people, the nation, to the Israeli state in significant ways, ways which matter and produce real American resources for Israel. Other small, democratic nation-states in tough neighborhoods, such as, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines should learn from the Israeli example.

During the recent election in 2012, I watched a reporter talking to a woman at the Republican National Convention on national television. The woman, a Democrat, had voted for Obama in 2008. When asked why she was supporting Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate, she said, because of Obama’s treatment of Israel. She noted that the president had not visited Israel, and she believed that he had been too hard on the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, by not meeting with him in New York City during a recent session of the United Nations. Because the president appeared on a popular television show, but not with the Israeli prime minister, he received considerable criticism from conservative talk-show hosts. The reporter asked her: "Are you Jewish?" She said, "No." He then asked her, "Have you been to Israel?" Again she said, "No." He then asked her why Israel was so important to her. She seemed confused, and admitted she had no significant attachments to Israel through personal experiences or relationships. Yet, she was committed to Israel. What was the source of her concern for Israel, her amity and affection for a state she had never seen and probably could not identify on a map? What was clear was that her concerns, her attachments to the state of Israel, were genuine. She was not attached to the people of Israel. She did not know any Israelis. Her amity, her attachments were to the state of Israel, an idea and possibly an ideal. This young lady, who looked to be in her twenties, could not articulate the sources of her amity, but that did not diminish it. She cared about the security of the state of Israel, and was willing to commit the resources of the United States, American treasure and lives to maintain the security of the state she had never seen. Why?

This woman is not unique. Millions of Americans feel exactly the same as she does. But they too cannot articulate why they feel the way they do. How is such amity created? We can point to many factors that contribute to the American cultural amity, American affection for the state of Israel. Consider the following:

1. Between World War II and the turn of the century, Jews became "white people," with all the rights and privilege allotted that status in the United States. While genetically, European Jews were (are) European, as are Israeli Jews, they were not always "white" in the United States. White Americans can now see themselves in eyes of white, American and Israeli Jews. Consider the words of Rousseau: "But when the strength of an expansive soul makes me identify myself with my fellow, and I feel that I am, so to speak, in him, it is in order not to suffer that I do not want him to suffer. I am interested in him for love of myself, and the reason for the precept is nature itself, which inspires in me the desire of my well-being in whatever place I feel my existence." Rousseau recognized the human ability to empathize: the ability to see one’s own identity in the eyes of another.

(It’s worth noting here that whiteness is a social and cultural construct. "White people" in America were not always considered "white people." They were Anglo-Saxons, Germans, Italians, and other ethnic groups of European decent. European ethnic groups, such as the Irish and Italians, were not automatically considered "white." They became "white" over time and were incorporated into the larger American majority, "the melting pot." Asians, to include Koreans, Chinese, Japanese, and others, may not be considered fully white in the year 2013, but they are rapidly becoming white, and have acquired most of, if not all, the rights and privileges of that status. For a further discussion of this transition, see, George M. Fredrickson, The Black Image in the White Mind: The Debate
on Afro-American Character and Destiny, 1817-1914
(Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 1971), 99; Eric L. Goldstein, The Price of Whiteness: Jews, Race, and American Identity (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2006), 138; and David R. Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class (New York: Verso,2007), and Working Toward Whiteness: How American’s Immigrants Became White (New York: Basic Books, 2005).)

2. There are over 7 million American Jews in the United States, who are all considered citizens of Israel. They exert considerable influence on the American media, film industry, Congress, and numerous other key American institutions. For example, opinion leaders, such as, Mortimer B. Zuckerman, the long-term editor-in-chief of U.S. News & World Report, in his weekly editorials regularly championed the cause of Israel. The mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, is an American opinion leader who is regularly seen on national television and is also a staunch supporter of Israel. Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and many other prominent Jewish Americans influence American attitudes towards and opinions of Israel. They exert considerable pressure on the occupant of the White House, Republican or Democrat, for Israel.

3. The Jewish lobbies, particularly AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), work tenaciously to influence American public opinion and influence Congress. It is well funded and considered by many to be the most effective lobby in America. In March 2013 AIPAC held its annual conference in Washington, DC. The title of an article published online read: "Take a Look Inside AIPAC’s Massive Lobbying Machine." A photo of the opening ceremony showed the vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, embracing Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak. It is indeed a massive and effective lobbying organization. Former President Bill Clinton noted that the Congress of the United States is the most pro-Israel legislative body in the world. It is very generous to the Israel, and AIPAC is very generous to them.

4. Religion is also a factor. Many Christians believe that the reestablishment of the Jewish State in the Holy Lands of the Middle East is a sign of the second coming of Christ. Southern Baptist, Methodist, and other religious communities emphatically embrace this belief. Televised religious leaders embrace and promulgate this belief, which enhances American support the Jewish State. The word "Israel" is spoken again and again every Sunday morning in churches across America. It is not difficult for Americans to draw connections from the biblical "Israel" to the new state of Israel. While Jews, according Christian beliefs, will not see Heaven, unless they accept Jesus Christ as their savior, many Americans have formed a cultural amity for the state of Israel because of their religious beliefs.

5. Images and words, history and the media, keep the Holocaust present in American minds. The National Holocaust Museum, and its many activities; major films, such as Schindler’s List; and significant books, such as Christopher Browning’s Ordinary Men and Daniel Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners, insure that Americans never forget the Holocaust in Europe. More recent holocausts, genocide, in other parts of the world — Cambodia and Africa, for example — fail to sustain the attention of the American people. They have no advocates, and they are not continuously renewed in the minds of Americans; hence, they fade with memory.

6. Jewish study programs, professorships, and libraries at colleges and universities across the United States educate young Americans on Jewish history, the Holocaust, Zionism, the founding of Israel, the Arab-Israeli Wars, and Israeli national security problems.

7. Israel has a well-developed information campaign designed to educate Americans on issues important to Israel. The campaign insures that Israel receives significant primetime television, radio, and magazine coverage. On the cover of the May 28, 2012 issue of Time Magazine the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, was featured with the caption, "King BIBI." On 17 February 2013 the popular TV news magazine 60 Minutes featured the Israeli Iron Dome antimissile system. On 29 January 2013 the Israeli ambassador, Michael Oren, gave the prestigious Landon Lecture at Kansas State University. His words were later carried over National Public Radio. In April 2013, the president of the United States visited Israel, bearing gifts totaling billions of dollars. His visit was followed by the secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel, who confirmed America’s commitment to Israel. Issues important to Israel regularly receive significant news coverage in the American media. This is not by chance or accident.

8. Commerce and trade promote cultural exchange between the two countries. Trade, business interactions and relationships, technology exchanges, and thousands of other relationships that are a function of economic activity insure a high degree of traffic between the two countries. During the Landon Lecture, the Israeli ambassador noted that trade between the United States and Israel was up 300 percent in the last 20 years. These numerous interactions keep Israel’s security problems front and center in the United States.

9. American military technologies and equipment provided to Israel for almost nothing helps to maintain a significant military exchange. The Obama administration deployed a small number of U.S. forces to Israel to help with missile defenses. The Pentagon funds weapons development in Israel. The Israelis fly jets and helicopters made in America.

10. American enmity towards Arabs and the Muslim world, the civilization and culture that created Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, the man most responsible for the worst attack on American soil in history, creates an "enemy of my enemy is my friend" disposition in the United States. The terrorist attacks on 9/11 also gave Americans common cause with Israel. Now both nations were fighting Islamic extremists and Middle East terrorism, both nations were now, so to speak, "in the same boat." The interactions and coordination between American and Israeli intelligence and defense communities have grown significantly since 9/11.

11. Conservative and neoconservative think-tanks and organizations such as FLAME (Facts and Logic About the Middle East) and the Project for a New American Century, insure that the Israeli perspective is advanced and defended.

12. Oil. Some Americans wrongly believe that Israel is protecting America’s, and the Western world’s, Middle East oil supply. They believe that Israel’s military preponderance and geographic circumstance, strategically located in close proximity to the states with the world’s largest known oil reserves, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, are critical to the economic stability of the developed world, which runs on Middle East oil.

13. The underdog status of Israel, the David and Goliath story, respect for what this little nation has accomplished, all feed into American cultural narratives to the benefit of Israel.

14. Finally, "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." Israelis look like white America. White Americans can see themselves in white Israelis. Israelis imitate Americans. Downtown Tel Aviv looks like downtown Seattle or Boston or Baltimore or Dallas. You will find the same big-name hotels, the same iconic names in stores and shops. You will find McDonald’s, Starbucks, Apple, and other major American institutions. Israel is often called the 51st state. If we got rid of the thousands of miles of ocean, Americans could cross from their home state into Israel almost as easily as they would go from Oklahoma into Texas. While Hebrew is the national language, a great many Israelis speak American Eng
lish. Israel looks like America, helping to establish and maintain cultural affinity. While few Americans have travelled to Israel, the images they see of the country, on television and in other media, look like what Americans would expect to see here at home in the United States. Americans can thus elevate Israel to almost American status, and thereby, identify with Israel. This is an enormously important factor is creating cultural amity.

The cumulative and aggregate effect of all these varied actions and interactions was the development and sustainment of a form of cultural amity in many Americans, evident in the woman noted above. Cultural amity creates influence: the stronger the cultural amity, the greater the ability to influence. Cultural amity makes it possible for foreign governments to put political pressure on the president and Congress of the United States. This cultural amity, in the case of Israel, is not because of any affinity for the Israeli people, people Americans don’t know. It is for the state of Israel, the image of Israel, the imagined community of Israel. Most Americans cannot find Israel on a map; yet, many believe they know it, have feelings for it, and are willing to commit enormous resources to it.

Now, is all this created cultural amity a function of natural processes, a function of the natural evolution of relationships, or some other processes?

Americans have cultural amity for many of nation-states and the peoples of those states in varying degrees. We have a cultural amity for the British people, probably at the highest degree possible. It was formed naturally. It is a function of hundreds of years of intimate history, of cultural interaction, of fighting each other, and fighting and dying together on the same battlefields, in the most traumatic event in the 20th century, World Wars I and II. It is a function of always showing up for one another, war after war, even in unnecessary wars — such as Operation Iraqi Freedom. It is a function of James Bond, Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes, and an almost common language. It is a function of BP (British Petroleum), where many Americans fuel their cars, and numerous other business relations. Americans have some degree of cultural amity for the German people, too, our World War II enemy. It is in part a function of a half of century of occupation and later the invitation to 250,000 American soldiers and their families, who are stationed in Germany for 2 to 3 years periods each. Millions of Americans have served in Germany forming intimate relations with the German people. This includes significant numbers of marriages. It is also a function of respect and admiration for German culture, for Mozart and Beethoven, Kant and Hegel; for German military thought, achievements, and leaders, like Clausewitz, Manstein, and Rommel; for German science and technology, the V-2 rocket, the first true guided missile and the forerunner of the American space program, and jet aircraft; for German engineering and products, Mercedes, Porsches, and BMWs, prestigious automobiles Americans love to drive. The American people have no such intimate history with the Israeli people or state, which was not formed until 1948. How then was this cultural amity for the Israeli state produced?

Some of it was (is) naturally occurring, arguably in much the same way that globalization is taking place, but in reverse (the United States tends to be an exporter of culture). The internet, social media, cell phones, television, and other forms of mass communication insure that the world is becoming more and more interconnected in significant ways. However, without a doubt, Israeli foreign policy and lobbies target the American people to make sure they have and maintain a positive impression of the tiny Jewish state of Israel. Many Americans wrongly believe Israel is a secular state, like the United States and United Kingdom, not a Jewish state.

Let me argue that in regard to the security of Israel, Jews in Israel and America are probably the most motivated people on Earth. The Holocaust is never far from their minds. It is always there, and at times it is evident. Consider the words of Avner Cohen, written in his book, Israel and the Bomb:

Ben Gurion’s vision of an Israel secured against existential threats has now been realized. Though nuclear weapons have not been officially acknowledged, they have greatly contributed to Israel’s image as the strongest nation in the Middle East. The Jews of Israel will never be like the Jews in the Holocaust. Israel will be able to visit terrible retribution on those who would attempt its destruction.

When the security of Israel comes into question, the Holocaust comes out. The refrain, "Never again," is spoken in silence and sometimes out loud. I had a one-time friend, a Jewish professor, get very angry at me. The intensity of his emotion caught me by surprise. I had said to him that American expenditures for the defense of Israel were too high. This observation caused his ire and an emotional outburst. He said to me in essence that no amount of American money was enough when it came to the security of Israel. He went further and said, "That if there was a God, I hate the fucker" for what happened to Jews in Europe during World War II. Such emotions and feeling are hard to deal with in a rational, calm manner. However, it occurred to me that these intense feeling were not unique. The discussion ended, but I never forgot it, and ultimately concluded that other Jews, American and Israeli, must share many of these same attitudes, emotions, and opinions with possibly the same level intensity. Once during my only visit to Israel, an administrative assistant who was driving me to a function where I was to speak said to me, "they hate us, and they will kill us if they get the chance." We were talking about the Palestinian issue; however, she meant the Arab world in general. Americans live with no such fears and find it hard to understand this disposition. Fear and anger produce motivations, the will to act.

Israel is geographically situated in a tough neighborhood. The long chain of Arab-Israeli wars creates passions and anger that motivate behavior. While there is a natural process at work, the creation of cultural amity in the United States is intentional, but it is not simply a function of Israeli foreign policies and strategies. It is a function of a history and memories of pain and suffering, death and destruction. It is a function of a system and set of beliefs about human nature and how the world works that was informed by the destruction of the European Jews in World War II.

A high degree of cultural amity for Israel, gives the prime minister of Israel and other Israeli leaders the ability to influence decision-making in Washington, in both the White House and Congress. Cultural amity results in the allocation of real resources, national treasure and even American lives. This is no small matter.

Can other nations learn from Israel? Can other nations adopt the Israeli model and strategy of creating cultural amity? Yes and no. Nation-states such as South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and to a lesser extent Japan, can and ought to adopt aspects of the Israeli model to create cultural amity for their country in the United States. They ought to have an equivalent to AIPAC operating in the United States to advance their interests. Cultural amity should be an essential part of their foreign policy. While the intensity and passion of the world-wide Jewish community probably cannot be matched, their strategies and methods can be adapted to the particular situation and needs of each nation-state. If other nation-states adopted the practices and strategy of Israel it would create greater balance in Washington.

South Korea, like Israel, is in a tough, tough neighborhood. With the expanding economic and military power of the People’s Republic of
China, with its undemocratic, communist government, with its objective of securing the resources of the East and South China Seas, and with the unstable regime of Kim Jong Un next door in North Korea threatening the "final destruction" of South Korea, the ROK needs the amity of the American people to guarantee its national security more so than any other nation-state on Earth. Cultural amity helps to secure the military power necessary to guarantee the survival of the state. It makes America’s commitment clear to all. The armed forces of the ROK, alone, absolutely cannot guarantee the survival of the South Korea. Arguably, South Vietnam ceased to exist when it lost the amity of the American people. To be sure, there are many explanations and arguments on the causes of the American defeat in Vietnam, but many of them center on the loss of the will of the American people to continue to fight the war for the security of the Vietnamese people. The strategy of Vietnamization, adopted by the Nixon administration in 1969, was the implementation of the will of the American people. International agreements and commitments that do not have the support of the American people are more easily broken and discarded by political leaders seeking to do what is expedient to achieve their immediate political objectives and reelection.

Arguably cultural amity is more difficult to develop and sustain for non-Western cultures, such as Korean and Japanese cultures. However, many of the necessary elements, significant relationships, trade, cultural exchanges, respect, similar systems of values and ethics, commitment to a particular way of life, commitment to democracy, and common security concerns are already prevalent. They simply need to be focused and advanced for the purposes of national security. When the government of South Korea considers its national security policies, "Gangnam Style" ought to be a consideration. How can we leverage this cultural Icon, which received 834,000,000 hits on YouTube, to create and sustain culture amity in the United States, and thereby enhance the security of South Korea? When the government of South Korea considers its national security policies, the strength of Korean companies doing business in the United States, selling products to Americans, ought to be a consideration. How can we leverage the popularity of Korean cars, like Hyundai, and cell phones, from companies like Samsung, to enhance cultural amity and, as a consequence, national security? If the government of South Korea is not asking these questions, if it is not working to create, sustain, and build cultural amity, it is failing its people. Following the recent North Korean nuclear test an article was published in Foreign Policy titled, "Few Korea hands on Obama administration’s Asia leadership team." South Korea has not insured that its interests are represented in the Obama administration. And this is a mistake.

With the overt, growing threat from North Korea, South Korean leadership has rediscovered an old motivation for strengthening its relationships with the United States. On May 7, the president of South Korea, Park Geun-hye, visited the White House. The following day she addressed a joint session of Congress; however, her visit did not attract the same level of attention as the visit of Benjamin Natanyahu. Americans do not have the same degree or the same quality of cultural amity for South Korea that they have for Israel.

North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is a greater threat to peace and stability than the Iranian program. North Korea already has nuclear weapons. Yet, the policies of the Obama administration toward Iran are much more certain and aggressive than those towards North Korea. The Israeli government has worked tenaciously and effectively to develop an affirmative American policy and military strategy for dealing with Iran and its nuclear weapons program. President Obama has stated again and again that Iran will not be permitted to develop a nuclear weapon. These pronouncements were in large part a function of Israeli pressure. Again, North Korea already has nuclear weapons, and is moving aggressively to miniaturize its weapons into a warhead that can be placed on its missile. The ruling parties in Iran, political and religious, have proven again and again to be rational actors. They occasionally excite the West and Israel with their aggressive pronouncements, but then they act with prudence. We do not yet know whether Kim Jong Un is a rational actor. We do not even know if he is actually in charge, or if he is acting in a bellicose manner to establish his authority and credentials among the ruling elite of North Korea. Our lack of knowledge, the existence of nuclear weapons, and its geographic proximity to Seoul and Tokyo makes North Korea the more dangerous state. Uncertainty is dangerous. And, the Obama administration, at least publically, has done almost nothing to make the threat of American power real to the rulers of North Korea. In fact, the haggling over the federal budget between the president and the Congress, particularly over the Department of Defense budget, has made the American threat less credible to bad actors. The less credible the American threat, the more likely bad actors — foreign aggressors — will make mistakes that might lead to war. We have seen this again and again.

The political leaders of South Korea have to be more aggressive in making their argument to the Obama administration and the American people. This is a matter of national security. They need to recognize and understand the significance of cultural amity. South Korea should leverage the strength of Korean companies and products, such as, Samsung — a company most Americans believe is Japanese — LG, and Hyundai to create cultural amity. Korean companies should emphasize the quality of Korean engineering, the way Germans celebrate the quality of "German engineering" in every television commercial for BMWs, VWs, and Mercedes. The Korean government should leverage the goodwill, prosperity, and achievements of the Korean Americans to enhance its cultural amity. It should harness the Korean War the way Jews in America harness the Holocaust to create cultural amity. It should create and lavishly support an American Korean Political Affairs Committee that employs methods similar to those used by AIPAC. It should seek clout similar to that of AIPAC in the U.S. Congress. The South Korean government should develop a comprehensive information campaign designed to educate Americans on the security problems facing its small democracy. The governments of South Korea and Japan should form a strategic alliance with the objective of guaranteeing national security through cultural amity with the American people. The president of South Korea and prime minister of Japan ought to seek to address the U.S. Congress and the U.N. General Assembly to present their case directly to the American people and world on a regular basis, not just when the threat intensifies. Their diplomats ought to be regular discussants on the Sunday morning talk shows, Face the Nation, CNN’s GPS, and other such programs. They ought to appear on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. South Korea could do much more to enhance its national security by developing a strategy of cultural amity with the American people.

As the power of China continues to grow, so will its ability to threaten, to make greater demands on the region. This behavior is already evident. The most consistent lesson of history and international relations is that power in existence has to be balanced. Cultural amity can help small nations achieve the necessary balance of power, without bankruptcy, without becoming a police state, and without surrendering sovereignty. Korea and Japan have options. They can either draw closer to the United States, seek security guarantees and affirmation of those guarantees in the same manner that Israel d
oes, or they can start to rearm, and to build their own nuclear weapons arsenals at great cost, sacrifice, and risk. If they seek the first option, cultural amity is vital. Today, in both nations, there is discussion of acquiring nuclear weapons.

South Korea and Israel are both distant nations, far from the borders of the United States. Both have neighbors who have nuclear ambitions. Both have been publically threatened with destruction. And both will be extremely vulnerable if these states acquire nuclear capabilities with the necessary delivery systems. Both know that only the armed forces of the United States can manage and/or eliminate these threats, and the situation on the Korean Peninsula is much more dangerous because North Korea has nuclear weapons and a new, unstable government. Yet, only one of these nation-states has an aggressive, focused information campaign designed to educate and influence the American people and pressure the president and Congress to act. The government of South Korea is not doing all it can to guarantee the commitment of the American people to the security of the people of South Korea. Ultimately national security is about people. It is about relationships, and what one people are willing to do for another. The quality and character of these relationships matter. To make the commitment of American armed forces real to the people of South Korea, or Israel, or Japan, cultural amity is necessary. Peoples and governments dependent upon the armed forces of the United States to maintain their security should not rely just upon treaties, international agreements, laws, and the current occupant of the White House to protect their interests. They should also rely on their relationship with the American people. To maintain the commitment of the American people to the security of these distant nation-states, cultural amity is absolutely necessary.

What is clear is that the Korean and Japanese governments need to put considerably more pressure on the Obama administration, which to this date has sent too many wrong signals to the PRC and North Korea. By relying on drones to fight our enemy, by parking the USS Truman because of budgetary constraints, by not reinforcing U.S. and ROK forces in South Korea in the face of a nuclear threat from North Korea, by taking a neutral stance in the Japanese dispute with the PRC over islands and sea control, by drawing down an Army that has worldwide commitments and has proven time and again to be too small, by slowing the maintenance of the USS Abraham Lincoln and other warships, the Obama administration has made the threat of American power less real. This is not a good thing. This is the way the first Korean War started. This is the way the first war in Iraq started. This is probably the way the next war will start — by America sending the wrong signals to would be aggressors. With sufficient cultural amity, the Koreans and Japanese could take their argument directly to the American people, could put pressure on the Obama administration through the court of public opinion, in much the same way Benjamin Netanyahu has. In the long term, the goodwill of the American people that comes through cultural amity is a better guarantee of American support than the goodwill of the current occupant of the White House, who too frequently acts out of domestic political considerations.

Israel’s national security strategy has been effective in securing the resources of the United States to advance and guarantee the security of the Israeli people. Israel’s strategy is a model for small nation-states seeking to enhance their security through the power of more powerful nation-states. While each nation-state is unique, attributes of the Israeli model can be adapted to the individual circumstances and needs of the state to produce cultural amity in the United States.

Adrian R. Lewis, a former Army enlisted soldier and officer, is a professor of history at the University of Kansas and the past director of its Office of Professional Military Graduate Education.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at Twitter: @tomricks1

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