Only Palestinians Are Not Held to a Standard

March 21st 2011
Palestine Topics - Palestinian Authority police

It appears that members of the American-trained Palestinian Security Force on the West Bank abetted the Itamar terrorists, prompting outrage over the fact that American military personnel are training Palestinian Security Forces in the first place. The outrage looks through the back end of the microscope—minimizing and magnifying the wrong things. The problem is not the training; it is the political decision-making in Washington that deliberately disconnects the Palestinian military from its political leadership. The same is true in Lebanon, where the United States arms and trains the Lebanese Army without regard for the nature of the current Lebanese government.

Regular readers know that we have long protested the training of Palestinian “police” (read “national-army-in-training”) not because we are worried that individual soldiers will become individual terrorists, but because we are unsure of the nature of the government to which the security force will ultimately be loyal. Current trends are bad.

There is no “Palestine,” no constitution (there remains a PLO Charter which contains the objective of removing the “Zionist entity” by force of arms); no parliament (it hasn’t met since Hamas won the plurality of seats in the last legislative election and started the civil war that ejected Fatah from Gaza); and there are two entirely different and mutually murderous governing bodies controlling territory, and one of them uses American-trained “police” to ensure compliance of recalcitrant civilians.

It is unwise to training people to do what we want them to do for reasons at odds with why they want to do it. We want the Palestinian “police” to learn discipline, counter-terrorism tactics, use of sniper rifles and scopes, and intelligence collection techniques so they can stop “terrorism.” They want to learn it so they can take out their enemies—Hamas or Jews. We want them to build an army/security force to protect the people of a new Palestinian State. They want to build an army/security force to kill their enemies. We want to give them defense, they want to acquire offense.

And since there is a disconnect between what we want and what they want, why are Americans training them at all?

Americans train with NATO armies and with Israel because we benefit while they benefit; the ethic is not in question. Americans train the armies of countries allied with us in a variety of ways because they benefit both from the tactics of our forces and the democratic politics we bring with us—as happened with the German Bundeswher and Japanese Self Defense Forces following WWII. Sometimes it takes time—as it did in Central and South America, and as it is currently taking time in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sometimes despite our best efforts, we don’t get where we, and they, want to go, as happened in South Vietnam.

The United States doesn’t train the Syrian army because of the nature of the Syrian government. We don’t train the Libyan, Venezuelan, or Zimbabwean armies for the same reason. We don’t expect the soldiers of the Democratic Republic of Congo to have the same military ethic as our military and we don’t plan to work with them. Ditto China, Belarus, and Iran.

Only in the case of the nascent Palestinian state, currently governed by the Palestinian Authority, has the Government of the United States suspended disbelief about the possible nasty nature of a future Palestinian regime and the objectively nasty nature of the current one. Only Palestinians are held to no standard whatsoever by our government.

That is a political problem, not a military problem. But that is the problem.

Shoshana Bryen is the Senior Director for Security Policy at JINSA in Washington, D.C.

 

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