In a post-American world, no one cares about ‘Palestine’

Death rattle.


Hamas rockets head for Israel, July 2014. (Image: Hamas, YouTube)
Hamas rockets head for Israel, July 2014. (Image: Hamas, YouTube)

New post up at Liberty Unyielding.  Enjoy!

4 thoughts on “In a post-American world, no one cares about ‘Palestine’”

  1. As usual, your intellectual ambitions tempt you to prove too much. There is way more in this piece than there needs to be. I feel I am panning for gold.

    Item. OK, nobody outside of Israel and Palestine cares about Palestine. But that has little to do with waning United States influence in the Middle East, or with the end of Pax Americana. Why attempt to prove something you do not need to, and can not, besides ??

    Pax Americana is not dead. How can something that has yet to be born be dead ? Honestly, there has never been a Pax Americana in the Middle East or anywhere else. I am still waiting for it. From the gleam in your eye, I can see you are, too. And at the least, I can say that the idea is alive and well in your writings on sea power.

    So let go of that crutch, and let us get down to substance.

    You were writing about events that have led to the current violence in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.

    Allow me to depart from strictly textual criticism in order to raise the question for which I seek an answer. Actually, it is a line of questions, but they all come under the heading of one:

    Can anyone explain to me what is going on over there ??

    For instance:

    Is there more to the Israeli government’s reasons for going after Hamas that mere punishment for the deaths of three boys on the West Bank ? Indeed, is that the reason for it ??

    This was a crime. But as you note, Hamas denied responsibility for it.

    Was its denial not loud enough to be heard ? Was its failure to condemn the crime while issuing its denial a crime in and of itself warranting punishment ?

    And are we talking merely about crime and punishment ? Crimes like this occur every day in the United States, thanks to our lax gun laws. They occurred in the South over and over during the early 20th Century. But they did not result in aerial bombing campaigns.

    Instead of launching the large military operation in the West Bank you referred to, and instead of re-arresting Hamas members who had nothing to do with this crime, the Israeli government could have accepted the Hamas denials, and let justice take its course. Why did it chose to spark a new round of air war between itself and Gaza ?

    Was that because of the evidence, as it has claimed ?

    Was that because, as also claimed, some other Hamas operation was afoot ?

    Or was it to satisfy the public demand for vengeance in Israel ??

    Or something else perhaps. A live-fire exercise in anticipation of the next war with Hezbollah ?? As punishment for making up with the Abbas people subsequent to the collapse of the peace talks ?

    Or lastly, as you suggest, simply to be rid of Hamas, now that the whole game is up ?

    There are just too many possibilities here, and it is very hard for me to understand why the murders outside Hebron required a resumption of hostilities in Gaza.

    Hamas actions, on the other hand, are much easier for me to understand, in a way that is consistent with you explanation of a desperate or foolhardy gambit.

    My understanding ? They also see that the game is up, or will be, if they do not do something. So they provoke Israel, and win a new lease on life. As you observe, Abbas and Netanyahu are the real losers. Oh, and of course, poor innocent peace-loving people.

    Now then, here are a few points to be made.

    First, in order to put an end to the rockets, Israel will have to occupy Gaza once more – in its entirety – and stamp out Hamas the way the IRA was stamped out in Northern Ireland. Trying to silence Hamas with F-16s is like trying to kill a mosquito with a sledgehammer.

    The Israelis damn well know this. And if they do not invade Gaza, it will prove that they were never serious about the rockets in the first place. It will mean that they were just playing a game with Hamas – the game of tit for tat air war – the purpose of which might be to reach a new, more permanent, and more advantageous ceasefire agreement with it; or merely, again, to appease Israeli public opinion.

    Lastly, observe this. Hamas wants something from Egypt in return for this cease fire: the reopening of the Rafah crossing. The proposal from Egypt did not offer that. In fact, it offered nothing from Egypt. There is a message here. It is characteristic for a broker to offer an inducement. Not so, here. The al-Sisi government is no friend of Hamas. It is saying, make peace with your arch enemy, if you want peace. You will not get it from us.

    Obviously, opening of the Rafah crossing is the first prize that Hamas is after; and thus, a breaking of the siege of Gaza. What other play do they have ? How odd: to pick a fight with Israel because of a complaint with Egypt. Maybe they should turn their rockets in the other direction.

    The question is, what does Israel want, and what is it willing to do to get it ?


  2. Actually, TPH, you appear to start from a different premise. If I understand it correctly, I don’t agree with your premise. You don’t agree with mine. That’s fine. It doesn’t mean either of us has overargued or underestimated the situation.

    However, you do seem to recognize that what Israel wants will be the controlling factor in this particular conflict. That is an ephemeral condition. It won’t be that way again, nor has that condition obtained prior to 2014. The reason is that from 1948 to 2014, the Pax Americana — the condition of American power as an irreducible base for stability — set limits on what Israel or anyone else could aspire to.

    It no longer does. That is because of Obama more than any other factor, although there are other factors. Go back and look at all the conflicts in the Middle East since the end of WWII, and you will find that in each one, the limiting factor on what each actor could consider possible was what the United States was prepared to enforce. That included what the former Soviet Union was able to conceive as possible, or actually execute.

    That’s what a “Pax” is: it’s not a condition of imposed political rule that absorbs or immobilizes everyone else. It’s a condition of limits set by a great power on what everyone else can consider possible. Many things change during a “pax.” The de facto administrator of the pax sets limits, with his general policies, on what they are. It should be obvious that such limits applied to the Middle East from the end of WWII, until a point in recent history: the inauguration of Obama.

    (The Ottoman Empire and the British Empire set such limits for the region prior to WWI, although the global quality of the British Empire’s reach didn’t parallel that of the US in every respect. The Ottoman Empire, of course, was a regional, territorial empire, which did exercise political rule over much of the Middle East, with its boundaries varying between 1453 and 1918.)

    As for what Israel wants, she will have to decide. But first she’ll have to estimate what the limits are within which she can choose her own priorities, given that the Pax Americana is gone, and that this moment is fleeting. If I read Netanyahu correctly, he won’t want to try to wholly remake Israel’s security situation — e.g., utterly destroy the current political structure of Gaza, so that it has to be reconstituted — because he’ll assume that the Arab nations will NOT sit still for that.

    I suspect he’ll try to reduce Hamas to a meaningfully less capable level from the standpoint of harassing Israel, and work with Fatah and Egypt to impose what will amount to a restoration of the status quo ante.

    Israel did not, of course, undertake this campaign in tit-for-tat retaliation for the kidnappings. Nor was it merely as a response to the rocket fire, which has been increasing since Hamas and Fatah formed the unity government.

    The situation from a comprehensive perspective is actually pretty straightforward. Hamas was increasingly destabilizing the situation, and once the unity government was established — while Hamas escalated its rocket attacks and the US made no effort to deter them (e.g., by withholding funds from the Palestinian Authority) — the instability quickly became untenable for Israel. This is especially the case given the instability of the larger region, on which there is now no reliable brake.

    Israel couldn’t tolerate a situation that Hamas could choose to destabilize further at any time. Netanyahu had to act, and try to restore conditions that Hamas CAN’T destabilize at a time of its choosing.

    Whether that can be done is another question. Hamas is going for broke, which I believe is because Haniyeh and others see that their moment is also fleeting. If Hamas wants to remain a factor in the “race to Jerusalem” equation, it’s now or never. Too many others now aspire to cut the path to Jerusalem.

  3. Read and understood. Thank you for the attention you have given this matter.

    You clearly take a much longer view of things than do I. That is good and I enjoy it. Your writing reminds me of the works of Barbara Tuchman, which I value and admire for her ability to marshal facts in favor of an interpretive narrative. You play the organ pretty well, yourself.

    We could probably grow old debating this business of the Pax Americana. There is much weight to what you say about it and it is of deep concern to me. But I more preoccupied with basic here and now issues, perhaps to a fault, and am afraid that the pace of events will not permit us to do so. As they say in Dutch country, we grow too soon olt, too late, schmart.

    With the time we have, I will just say what I feel I must concerning this subject.

    I follow your writings. If you do mine, you will note that we both have been thinking about this subject for some time. Indeed, most of what you have to say about it forms the premise for the many letters I have written to people in high places concerning Syria.

    The difference between us here simply is this. I happen to feel that the whole matter now hangs in the balance as it has never done before: that the moment of truth for this principle of historic development is upon us; whereas you are saying its moment has passed. Or more simply, I believe its finest hour has yet to come. You do not.

    To that, I reply, alas, you may be right. But not if I have anything to say about it.

    The limiting constraint on other nations: United States. A very interesting concept. Query, did Saddam Hussein get the green light from us to invade Iran ? Kuwait ? [Actually, from the commentary, we know that was debated.] How about the Yom Kippur War. Did Israel pull back from the west bank of the Suez Canal because we told them to, or for some other reason ? France’s war in Algeria ? Libya under Ghaddafi ? – I was in Portsmouth when the FB-111’s flew out. What did that accomplish ?? And where were we during the massacre at Srebrenica ?

    Clearly, you must concede, its administration has been pretty liberal for a long time, and has allowed for a great deal of mischief.

    It is a great theme. Keep pushing it. But one note of an editorial nature. You diminish your own narrative, and undercut its validitity, by attributing the end of an age to the inactions of one man, our current president. Disappointing as he is, I doubt that he is completely responsible for “The Rise and Fall of the American World Order”, as it were. If he were, then it follows that a change of heart, or a change of man could do something about this.

    What you have to say is too important. Defend it from criticism as a political tract. And be optimistic.


  4. With respect, TPH, you read my words not as I am, but as you are. We have different perspectives. Mine is probably more optimistic than yours, and is principle-focused according to my lights.

    I’m not foolishly optimistic about the wrong things, however, such as the possibility that America can somehow get better without substantially changing our current policies.

    I can recommend reading some of my older writings to gain a sense of that. I don’t keep writing the same things over and over again, but they are there to be perused.

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