US military aid to Israel is a bargain

Tuvia Brodie,

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Tuvia Brodie
Tuvia Brodie has a PhD from the University of Pittsburgh under the name Philip Brodie. He has worked for the University of Pittsburgh, Chatham College and American Express. He and his wife made aliyah in 2010. All of his children have followed. He believes in Israel's right to exist. He believes that the words of Tanach (the Jewish Bible) are meant for us. His blog address is He usually publishes 3-4 times a week on his blog and 1-3 times at Arutz Sheva. Please check the blog regularly for new posts.

If you’ve read about US military aid to Israel, you know that a lot of what you read is critical of Israel. Some of that criticism argues that US military aid to Israel is a waste of American taxpayer dollars (David Meir-Levi, “In Defense of US aid to Israel”, frontpagemag, October 11, 20011).  

That criticism is wrong. US military aid to Israel isn’t a waste. It’s a bargain.

To understand why, consider first that Israel is very different from other countries which receive US aid: the US needs Israel as much as Israel needs the US. You can’t say that about most countries which receive US aid.

Israel serves as a military proxy for American interests in the Middle East. The US needs that proxy. Without Israel, the US is blind.

Much of US intelligence-gathering in the Middle East is a ‘black hole’ (Brian Bennett, “CIA intelligence gap hinders counter-terrorism efforts in Syria, Iraq”, latimes, November 17, 2014). Money goes into intelligence--and disappears.

Iran is a ‘blind spot’ for US intelligence services (Ken Silverstein, (“US Reliance on Too Much SIGINT and Too Little Spycraft Is Dangerous and Expensive”, observer, September 11, 2015). So are much of Syria, Iraq and the Palestinian Authority (ibid).

That’s where Israel comes in. In a dangerous hotspot, Israel provides the intelligence the US can’t get. As one former US Air Force intelligence chief says, “America’s military defense capability owes more to the Israeli intelligence input than it does to any other single source of intelligence . . . its value is worth more than five C.I.A.s”, (Tristan Johnston, “Going global: Israel is America’s Aircraft Carrier in the Middle East, therunner, March 29, 2015). No other country provides the US with ‘five CIA’s’ worth of intelligence.

In addition to giving the US otherwise inaccessible intelligence, Israel uses US aid to develop ways to help the US fight terror (Robert D. Blackwill and Walter B. Slocombe, “Israel: a true ally in the Middle Easdt”, latimes, October 31, 2011). It even serves as an actual base for a sophisticated missile-defense system used exclusively for the benefit of the US (ibid).

The only alternative the US has for replacing Israel’s intelligence gathering and electronic systems base in the Middle East is to station a US aircraft carrier battle group permanently in the Eastern Mediterranean (Johnston, above, ibid). In fact, former US Secretary of State Alexander Haig once used a carrier analogy to describe Israel’s importance to the US: “Israel is the largest American aircraft carrier in the world that cannot be sunk, does not carry even one American soldier, and is located in a critical region for American national security” (ibid). This assessment is still true, even though some Americans remain in Israel.

This carrier analogy explains why America’s 3+billion dollars military aid to Israel is a bargain. A carrier group alternative is expensive (Rich Smith, “The Navy's Most Expensive Aircraft Carrier Ever Just Got Even More Expensive”, the motley fool, May 25, 2015). One aircraft carrier costs 14 billion dollars to build (ibid); and to create a complete battle group, you need more than one ship. In addition to the carrier, you also need at least one cruiser (probably two), at least two destroyers (or three), a frigate, and 65-80 very expensive aircraft. Then, you need logistics ships, a supply ship and, typically, a nuclear attack submarine (often, two).

That’s expensive, even if you amortize the required construction costs over an assumed 40-50-year life-span. On top of that amortization schedule, you’ll need another 2.4 billion a year just to maintain your battle group (Loring Chien, “How much does it cost to build and to maintain one aircraft carrier?”, quora, May 18, 2015).

Then, you have to add in other costs: the annual and amortized expenses for scheduled and unscheduled refurbishments, replacing munitions and repairing aircraft. You have to amortize final decommissioning costs and the cost of salvaging nuclear reactors. You have to add in the effect of future inflation. By the time you’re done, you’re spending more than 3 billion dollars a year to build and maintain your carrier group.

Even if the US spends the same for both US aid to Israel and a carrier battle group, those billions aren’t equal. There’s a huge difference.

When the US gives military aid to Israel, few American lives are on the line. But when the US puts a carrier battle group on station, almost 8,000 US military personnel put their lives on the line to serve on those ships. That’s a lot of Americans. Hundreds of those Americans are injured (or killed) each year in ship-board work-place accidents, training exercises, missions and other  ‘incidents’.  

Military aid to Israel helps the US on many levels. It also keeps American military personal away from danger.

Those anti-Israel articles are wrong. US aid to Israel isn’t a waste. It’s a bargain, especially when you add the cost of Americans’ lives to the equation.