EXCERPT (picks up following description of speech by Andrew J Shapiro, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs)
Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin challenged Shapiro during Q&A:
[I]t pains me to hear you sound more like an agent of the Israeli government than a U.S. representative because as you travel around the world you see that this “special relationship” really endangers us, makes us more hated around the world. So I wonder if you would be willing to step in other shoes and go to Gaza, see the results of the Israeli invasion there, see the destruction, talk to people in Gaza, talk to the elected government, which is Hamas. You don’t have to like them to talk to them. I also wonder if you’ve spent any time with people in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to see what it feels like for Palestinians, the daily humiliations they suffer.
And I also wonder, given the financial crisis here at home and the great needs of impoverished nations around the world, couldn’t you think of a better use of $3 billion than giving it to a wealthy country like Israel that is abusing the human rights of Palestinians on a daily basis?
Benjamin drew a round of applause — Shapiro declined to respond directly to her challenge.
As Shapiro noted, the concept of Israel’s QME has been in use for decades, but it was only when the Bush administration let Israel draft American law, that QME turned into a license to use force with impunity.
In January 2008, William Wunderle, a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, and Andre Briere, a U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel, wrote in a paper for The Washington Institute for Near East Policy:
The US commitment to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME) is a long-standing tradition that every president since Lyndon Johnson has maintained and reiterated. The basic principle behind this commitment is simple: Israel is a bastion of liberal representative government in the Middle East, and, as such, its continued survival is a vital national interest of the United States. To ensure this longtime ally’s continued existence in a sea of nations that reflexively call for its destruction, Israel must be able to defend itself militarily and deter potential aggression. In this effort, Israel will always be militarily outnumbered with regard to the artillery, tanks, and combat aircraft that can be deployed by a coalition of Arab states. Israel’s continued survival can be ensured only if it is able to maintain qualitative military superiority, relying on superior weaponry, tactics, training, leadership, and other factors of military effectiveness to deter or defeat its numerically superior adversaries in the Middle East.
In other words, the US policy advocated that Israel should be able to counter a quantitative disadvantage with a qualitative advantage. It said nothing about supporting Israel’s use of that advantage at minimal cost. The expression after all was qualitative military edge — not supremacy.
These analysts noted however that:
Israel defines QME as “the ability to sustain credible military advantage that provides deterrence and, if need be, the ability to rapidly achieve superiority on the battlefield against any foreseeable combination of forces with minimal damage and casualties.”
The Israeli phrasing went straight into US law which says that Israel must maintain the ability to use military force “while sustaining minimal damages and casualties.”
Let’s put that in context. The law was signed just two years after Israel had visibly lost its qualitative military edge in Lebanon in 2006 when it faced Hezbollah, and less than three months before it used the assault on Gaza to once again demonstrate its ability to wreak massive destruction while sustaining minimal damages and casualties.
The war on Gaza, which President-elect Obama watched in silence, showed not merely the brutality that Israel is willing to use under America’s political protection, but the extent to which Israel’s military agenda is empowered through its ability to control the United States Government.
The war on Gaza was QME in action.