Tag Archives: gaza

Karsten Erzinger: Where is America?

As I continue to read about the various crises that have recently erupted around the world, two questions keep popping into my head: “Where is the United States? What will their response be?” The answers to those questions seem to be “nowhereandnothing.” While Barack Obama has gone to great lengths to soften America’s foreign policy since becoming President, Obama’s response to recent events have taken this approach to a new extreme. This does not bode well for American allies and for the international community at large. Power abhors a vacuum and if the United States continues to remove itself from international conflicts and shrink its influence around the world, the vacuum left will likely be filled by unfriendly regimes and other bad actors.

Surveying the current landscape it’s not hard to see that the bad actors of the world have become emboldened. The examples are numerous; the Ukraine-Russia conflict, where Russian-backed rebels seem to have shot down a passenger plane, ISIS in Iraq, Israel-Hamas conflict, Iran steadily progressing towards a nuclear bomb, the endless killings in Syria, Boko-Haram, the turmoil in Libya – the list goes on. The United States, under President Obama’s leadership, has been content to outsource and minimize their role in these conflicts by “leading from behind”, calling on vague “international responses”, using “hashtag diplomacy,” or by flat out ignoring the problems. Most recently, American efforts to intervene in the Hamas-Israel crisis has been so ineffective that even liberal-leaning media outlets are mocking the efforts.

As shocking as some of these events have been, they are likely to become the new normal if the United States continues its passive and reluctant approach to foreign affairs. Everyone knows the US wields a large stick, but if they are unwilling to even threaten the use of it, it serves no purpose. The world’s problems cannot be solved solely by economic sanctions or by carefully worded statements delivered via a teleprompter, despite what the President seems to think. The continued reluctance of the United States to engage in a serious manner on these issues presents major problems for those reliant upon them for protection and support.

President Obama’s foreign policy approach has largely failed. He has alienated allies, emboldened enemies and lessened America’s power and influence throughout the world. One can only hope that President Obama has ability to recognize this and implement some badly needed course correction.

The Hustings

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Tom Stringham: Endless war in Palestine

A barrage of Israeli missiles in Gaza has cast the light of our attention once again on the scene of endless carnage in the Middle East. Once again, Hamas has smuggled rockets into Gaza and launched them at Israeli cities, stirring a response by the Israeli Air Force. Once again, a lasting peace appears impossible.

Westerners are troubled by the tangible animosity between the Jewish state and many of its Arab neighbors, and by the strange asymmetry of the ongoing conflict. Israel has the power to destroy Hamas, but not the will, while Hamas has the will but not the means to destroy Israel. The asymmetry of animus gives Hamas the ability to start conflicts, much to our regret, while the lopsidedness of power allows Israel to end them, to our general disapproval.

Hamas understands the strategy of Israel and its allies reasonably well. Its leaders know that Israel will not utterly wipe the regime out of power or attempt a brazen occupation of Gaza in the near future, if for no other reason than that liberal democratic Israel depends too much on the support of public opinion, both within and without the Jewish state.

Gazan rockets will awaken exactly the response from the Israelis Hamas intends them to awaken: hundreds of civilian casualties in Gaza, which will understandably stir the sympathies of the international public. These sympathies are Hamas’ best chance of meaningfully weakening Israel.

But while Hamas has a cynical perceptiveness of Israel and the West, the West generally does not understand Hamas, in the way that civilization often misreads sophisticated barbarity. The material goals of liberal democratic polities—peace, order, good government, and so on—are not ends for Hamas, and they may not even be means. The end, as always, is immaterial and beyond this world. For the Islamist, the existence and stunning success of a Jewish state in the heart of the Muslim world is not just humiliating but theologically disturbing. The salvation of the region’s Muslims is in the destruction of that state.

This is why the regime would not be appeased even if Israel emptied its national treasury for the Arabs, or handed over half its land, and why negotiations will continue failing in the coming decades. The only scenarios involving eventual peace are all stark: either the destruction of Israel, the destruction of Arab Gaza (and likely the West Bank), or an incalculably costly worldwide reformation of Islam.

The Hustings

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