Dodging the Hard Questions

The usual format of my posts is

  1. I quote a news article, op-ed, editorial, or another blog post
  2. I comment on it
  3. I give my own opinion

I’m going to deviate from that in this post. I’m going to give my opinion then quote another post, then comment on it.

I think that Israel, far from being the 51st state, is another country with a different culture than ours and whose interests are not perfectly aligned with ours. It is a liberal democracy but only remains one by virtue of disenfranchising a significant number of those who should be its citizens but aren’t—the residents of the West Bank and Gaza. Israel’s interests are more closely aligned with ours than those of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Qater, Jordan, etc. but not by a lot. I think the appropriate relationship between the United States and Israel is to maintain a respectful distance.

Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7 was an atrocity and Israel has a right to defend itself. Other than that statement we should not align ourselves too closely with Israel and the position taken initially by the Biden Administration was too close. Now it is apparently trying to distance itself somewhat from Israel, something it would not have had to do in the absence of that initial mistake.

In a recent post at outside the Beltway James Joyner, commenting on Israel’s war with Hamas, remarks:

A horrific war is about to get uglier. But, as much as world leaders urge restraint, Netanyahu and his war council clearly believe this is what’s necessary to achieve their incredibly challenging objective of destroying Hamas once and for all.

Recent remarks from Secretary of State Antony Blinken strike the right balance:

The brutality of Hamas attacks on Israel, he said, cannot be used to justify brutalising Palestinians.

“Israelis were dehumanized in the most horrific way on October 7,” he told a news conference in Tel Aviv. “The hostages have been dehumanised every day since. But that cannot be a license to dehumanise others.”

The overwhelming majority of people in Gaza had nothing to do with the attacks of October 7,” Mr Blinken went on. “The families in Gaza whose survival depends on deliveries of aid from Israel are just like our families. They’re mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, who want to earn a decent living, send their kids to school, have a normal life. That’s who they are. That’s what they want.”

But translating that into foreign policy is another thing. The administration has made it clear that it will not condition military aid to Israel.

President Biden is in a particularly tough spot here, as he has fully embraced Netanyahu, to the consternation of many of his own staff. But urging “peace” and “restraint” is to little avail absent an end state that’s acceptable to Israel.

The emphasis is mine. James, like Sec. Blinken, is dodging the hard questions about the conflict between Israel and Hamas. The overwhelming majority of Japanese people had nothing to do with the attack on Pearl Harbor. Nonetheless, we killed between half a million and a million Japanese civilians in our war with Japan. That was because we understood that we were at war with Japan. Not the handful of samurai families who promoted war with the United States. Japan.

Similarly, Hamas has been the elected government of Gaza for nearly 20 years. Israel has had no presence in Gaza for most of that period. Since electing Hamas there have been no elections in Gaza but there has been no widespread resistance to Hamas in Gaza. Opinion polls taken after October 7 show majority support for Hamas and other violent radical Islamist groups among the residents of Gaza.

How do you make war on Hamas without making war on Gaza? I don’t see it. How do you give the full-throated support to Israel the Biden Administration has without supporting war on Gaza? I don’t see that, either. That full-throated support was an “own goal” by the Biden Administration which they are desperately trying to escape.

Those are the hard questions about the conflict between Israel and Hamas. What if all of the adult residents of Gaza support Hamas? What if the majority of adult residents of Gaza support Hamas? Does it make a difference? How do you make war on Hamas without making war on Gaza? How do you make war against irregulars embedded within a civilian population without killing civilians?

I think that Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7 was an atrocity, Israel has a right to defend itself, and I deplore every single death or injury of any civilian in either Israel or Gaza. Full stop.


The commenters at the linked post continue to misunderstand what “proportional” means in this context. It means proportional to the risk not proportional to the original loss. Since Hamas has promised to repeat the attack on 10/7 again and again, the risk is the extermination of all of the Jews in Israel.

Michael Reynolds does make a good point, asserting than an end to U. S. support would unleash Netanyahu to engage in even greater attacks on Palestinian civilians. That could be the case. If true it might cause me to change my view which is that we shouldn’t provide aid to Israel. However, I’m skeptical that what we do or do not do has much effect on Israel one way or another.

0 comments… add one

Leave a Comment