Unlike U.S. aid to Israel, most of which is funneled back to the American defense sector, U.S. defense spending towards its forward-operating presence in Europe and Asia is composed of hundreds of thousands of “boots on the ground,” soldiers whose lives would be at stake in any scenario involving an attack on treaty allies. And these allies lie under our nuclear umbrella, meaning that conflicts on either continent could theoretically ensnare the United States in nuclear war.
Viewed in this light, U.S. military aid to Israel looks less like the special dispensation of a powerful ethnic lobby and more the logical extension of America’s postwar power projection. It is not all that spectacular compared to U.S. defense arrangements with the dozens of countries it is obliged to defend, up to and including with weapons of mass destruction. Of course, U.S. support for Israel has an emotional dimension, as the passionate speeches at AIPAC invoking the Holocaust attest. But much the same can be said for its military arrangements with Estonia, South Korea, and Taiwan: All are small, vulnerable democracies facing authoritarian, rapacious adversaries, and it is this underdog quality which animates American public support. Yet for some reason, none of these alliances engender anywhere near the same sort of antipathy as does the one between the United States and the world’s only Jewish state.