I had a lot of problems with Rick Perry’s remarks on Israel today, but the most striking thing was his throwaway line that “Israel’s security is critical to America’s security.” He didn’t really explain why that is, because like Benjamin Netanyahu’s contention that “America has no better friend than Israel”, it isn’t true.
The truth is that Israel is a very small country that simply isn’t very important. Israel contains no valuable natural resources, and it does no favors for the United States.
Which is fine. There are lots of countries whose security isn’t crucial to the United States. Chile, for example. And yet we still enjoy a nice, healthy, state-to-state and society-to-society relationship with Chile. It’s not a slam on Chile to observe that Chilean security isn’t critical to American welfare. Nor is it a slam on Chile to observe that Chile isn’t a poor country. Indeed, it’s a compliment to Chile to note that the Chilean record of economic growth is impressive. But part of what that means is that Chile isn’t a great charity case. It’s no India, no Botswana, no El Salvador. We can be friends with Chile, shake hands with Chilean leaders, enjoy their wines, etc. without saying that we need to take Chile’s side in every regional diplomatic dispute, subsidize the Chilean military, or have our politician run around the world making absurd claims about the centrality of Chilean security to our own security.