J.D. Vance Condemned Neocons—Then Called for the Same Middle East Policy

by | May 25, 2024

Sen. J.D. Vance (R–Ohio.) believes that American neoconservatives have caused 40 years of “disasters” in the Middle East. But he’s doubling down on exactly the vision they’ve had all along: an alliance of Israel and Sunni Muslim–led states, backed by U.S. military power, to “police” the region.

At a Thursday conference hosted by the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft—where I worked as a researcher several years ago—and The American Conservative, the senator laid out his idea of a “foreign policy for the middle class.” Vance, who is on Donald Trump’s shortlist for vice president, attacked the “tired old slogans” that have become consensus in Washington and called for a more “realist” approach.

But Vance also tried to argue that U.S. support for Israel and its Sunni allies is quite different from the kind of “endless war” policies he opposes elsewhere. He pointed to Israeli developments in missile defense as a potential benefit of U.S. support to Israel.

“By combining the Abraham Accords approach with the enduring defeat of Hamas,” the United States will ensure that “Israel, with the Sunni nations, can actually police their region of the world. That allows us to spend less time and less resources in the Middle East,” Vance said.

The Abraham Accords were a set of 2020 agreements between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. The Trump administration sweetened the deal with several offers of U.S. support, such as a sale of advanced American fighter jets to the UAE. …

Vance wouldn’t be the first to try selling a U.S.-Israeli-Sunni alliance as a way to lighten America’s load. In 1996, a group of prominent neoconservatives wrote the “Clean Break” report, calling on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to adopt a policy of Israeli “self-reliance.” The authors envisioned Israel working together with Sunni states to “contain, destabilize, and roll-back” Iranian, Syrian, and Palestinian threats.

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