The West’s refusal to confront fanatics, and scorn heaped on Israel for defending itself, are symptomatic of a moral failure that had catastrophic consequences in the past and could do so again.
I left my most recent blog on Israel posted for longer than usual a result of the crisis in Gaza and because, as it turns out, what I had written presaged present circumstances. As a result, if you have not read “A Spiritual Journey To Israel Unearths Timely Lessons About The World,” I would ask you to do so now before continuing on with “What In The World Is Going On?”
It seems we have a complicit media assisting in and perpetrating a perversion of truth on an astonishing scale.
What in the world is going on? How can so many people be blind with a self-afflicted unawareness? Why do so many refuse to look at the facts and view history as it has unfolded? Perhaps they are so disinterested that they have not taken the time to investigate the history? Perhaps some are so lazy that they would rather feed their prejudices than consider an alternative view?
As a consequence, perhaps it would be helpful review the history.
A great democracy surrounded by a sea of hatred
The Zionist movement is 150 years old, reflecting the relationship between Jewish people and their homeland that goes back some 4,000 years. It was and is focused on the idea that Jewish people should have their own sovereign state in the land of Israel — and the Jewish people sustained that goal through 20 centuries of exile.
Zionism, made up of religion, a national identity, and loyalty to the land, is now a term that has become synonymous with colonialism, imperialism, racism — even Nazism — and has become an abomination to many. Why is Zionism loathed by so many? The why of that mindset might be meat for another discussion, but for now, just to review, the wave of Zionism that led to the establishment of modern Israel was the product of the Holocaust that many deny ever happened. Even among those that view the Holocaust is a historical fact, some say the Jews deserved the outcome. Anti-Semitism obviously plays a part in Holocaust denial, and today that odious form of prejudice is enjoying a rise all over the world to levels not seen since World War II.
What in the world is going on? Israel, along with Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the United States, is one of the few states that have never known a single day of non-democratic governance. And this small slice of land populated from some 70 countries, is surrounded by seven Arab nations, several of which want the annihilation of the only Jewish state, in spite of the fact that Jews were native to this land millennia before the rise of Palestinians or Palestinian nationalism.
As I referenced in “A Spiritual Journey…”, in 1937, 1947, 2000, and again in 2008 Palestinians received offers to divide the land and not only rejected each offer, but followed up with violence as a response. We see this being played out today in Gaza again, yet the world press seems oblivious to the truth and in fact chooses to criticize Israel and support Hamas and the Palestinians. What in the world is going on?
Fouad Ajami, who recently passed away, was among the foremost scholars of the modern Arab and Islamic worlds. He first made his name as an advocate for Palestinian nationalism, and in a debate with Benjamin Netanyahu made the case against Israeli iniquity. Before his death, Ajami allowed his honesty, courage and intelligence to overcome his ideology and said, “Arab society has run through most of the myths, and what remained in the wake of the word, of the many proud statements people had made about themselves and their history, was a new world of cruelty, waste, and confusion.” Later commenting on Egypt under Hosni Mubarak he said “a new toxic brew poisoned the life of Egypt, a mix of anti-modernism, anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism. … the underclass was left to the rule of darkness and to a culture of conspiracy.” Bret Stephens would say of Ajami that he understood his former beliefs in the hard-won wisdom of the disillusioned.
Aviad Amiati, who was my group’s guide during our recent trip to Israel, wrote me to share his sadness about the needless suffering caused by Hamas terrorists. He sent a photo from inside one of the tunnels Hamas uses to move weapons and supplies, and which they use to conduct attacks on Israelis:
I was there recently — concrete tunnels, 70Ft underground leading not to IDF’s bases, but straight to the center of dining rooms and kids playgrounds. Terrorists tunnels leading to the heart of our nation settlements.
Therefore, the next time that the people of the world speaks of Gaza’s poverty, they should know where Gaza’s leadership is investing all of their fundings. Hundreds of millions of dollars poured into terror up to the last cent. All of their energy, thought and work power invested in killing Israeli citizens. These facts are waking sad thoughts for all.
If only half of their energy, determination and work power was invested in developing Gaza, their citizens could’ve lived in much higher life style.
If only I could show the people of Gaza how much money Hamas have spent on their terror tunnels, rockets, weapons and ammunition, along with every picture of a tunnel, a picture of what they could’ve build with that money.
Hamas has built a tunnel to butcher Israelis families in ‘Nir-Am’ settlement? With that money they could’ve build an amusement park.
Hamas has built a tunnel to murder the people of ‘Hulit’ cooperative settlement? With that money they could’ve built roads, factories, developed tourism …
The People of Gaza have lost everything because of Hamas’s vision to murder Israeli citizens.
Why America’s weariness is dangerous
As I have discussed these issues with others, I find more than one questioning why we should even care. What part, if any, should America have in any in these conflicts? What in the world is going on?
If it is true that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, or that those who endorse a revised narrative of the past will repeat it, then perhaps we should pay more attention to what is going on, not less.
There is value in remembering the mistakes of the past. There is also value in remembering that many mistakes, and their catastrophic consequences, occurred because of failures of leaders who refused to intervene.
The rise of Anti-Semitism is just one part of a larger pattern.
Margaret MacMillan writing about the after-effects of WWI pointed out that political extremism gained traction as people lost confidence in the existing political order and the abilities of their leaders. Self- interest became paramount and isolationism prevailed. Self-interest, it should be obvious, has limits both then and now.
John Keegan in his classic history The First World War, published in 1998, said as an example, “The First World War was a tragic and unnecessary conflict. Leaders who lacked prudence and goodwill failed one after another to stop an eminently stoppable train of events that produced a conflagration.”
Once again, not learning from the past, before Mussolini invaded Ethiopia in 1935, Haili Selassie pleaded to the League of Nations for help. The League in all of its infinite wisdom (sound familiar) imposed sanctions on Italy that failed. Daniel Henninger called it the red line of the times. Putin invaded, excuse me, Mussolini invaded, the League condemned and the world paid scant attention. Selassie remarked, “It is us today. Tomorrow it will be you.”
In 1938 the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain much like my fellow Vietnam veteran, now U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, shuttled between protagonists. Hitler had already annexed Austria with again little reaction from the world and he intended to annex the Sudetenland. Will Mr. Kerry have more success than Neville Chamberlain offering appeasement in Kiev, Gaza, Iraq, Syria, Tehran, Afghanistan, the South China Sea? Will Mr. Kerry return home triumphantly in offering peace for our time as Mr. Chamberlain trumpeted in Parliament? Winston Churchill viewed the proceedings differently, saying “this is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup.”
It is interesting to note that Kiergaard suggested that some people can look at the same set of circumstances and facts and draw completely different conclusions, and appear to have a special “awareness” that enables them to see the prodromes or opportunities before they occur. War and its influences and timing are inscrutable. We are told that Americans are tired of conflict as Europe was after WWI and II. America, as Europe did then, seems to have turned inward. We are told that President Obama’s handling of almost everything from Gaza to the Ukraine has low approval ratings, yet that Americans do not want to get involved around the world. Is that a dichotomy or is it once again our refusal to learn from the past? What in the world is going on?
History shows us explicitly that men like Hitler and others find ways to take advantage of fatigue in nations. History also shows that leadership matters and that the public embrace of a Chamberlain can soon turn to the panicked and frantic embrace of a Churchill.
Please wake up, Mr. President
Peggy Noonan recently wrote that Mr. Obama is disinterested and disengaged to the point of disembodied. What kind of illusions does one have about the world to be disappointed when it disappoints or when the players act aggressively or falsely? Do you opt out or engage? She goes on to point out that it is unusual to have a President who has checked out. It is unprecedented and deeply strange. More importantly, because the world is watching and calculating, it is unbelievably dangerous.
Madeleine Albright recently said “The world is a mess.” Joe Leiberman then commented, “But it is exactly in such times where it is most important to get involved.”
We need to make it clear who our friends are and who are foes are. We need to let our friends know that we will stand with them. That is behavior and a philosophy from a time when such things mattered. As Ms. Noonan reflected in the past we were held together by a “unified patriotic theory of America”. This view has held us together and protected our future. Today that traditional fabric is fraying badly.
What in the world is going on? What is going on is a battle for not just the heart but the soul of America. What is going on is a moral abandonment of right and wrong for the sake of self-interest and a political culture that is brutish and disdainful of others to the point of self-immolation.
At the end of WWII, Henry Stimson, the Secretary of War said that America was presented with “the greatest single opportunity ever offered to a nation.” With that, men like Dean Acheson, Reinhold Niebuhr, Robert Hutchins and Jacques Maritain orchestrated policies like the Marshall Plan, containment and others. Today we face perhaps greater opportunities and responsibilities. The moment is critical and we appear to be inarticulate or so cautious that we will miss the window of opportunity. We demonstrate neither the will nor the wallet to lead while American images drown out American ideals in the eyes of a watching world.
We need Lincolnesque leadership. Mr. Lincoln, like Mr. Obama, received great criticism. Today Mr. Lincoln’s greatness is a matter of history. His modesty and willingness to work with and negotiate with all of his doubters and naysayers is legendary. Mr. Lincoln showed respect for everyone, and leadership and moral certitude through crisis. Mr. Obama ignores Congress and the world, and has allowed the world stage to be dominated by expansionist fanatics whose successes make each day more dangerous than the last.
With conflicts raging, we also cannot afford to abandon allies, and to shrink away from doing what is right and what is necessary. As I wrote in Focus and Failure, in the chapter Focus on: Heroes & Hope:
“We feel betrayed. We are disappointed. We both want and need leadership. We want to know if there is any leader who has the strength of character to sustain faith and be truthful. The answer is that the process of leadership and nation-building itself is amoral. Hitler, Stalin, Manson, Koresh and Saddam Hussein all had strong beliefs about conduct but they were evil. As Allan Bloom pointed out, no one seems to know the true nature of evil today. We cannot leave things in the hands of people who hold only a negative view of life. We must put God back where He belongs, we must put our heroes back where they belong and focus on the values and laws that speak life and not death. There is something cleansing and powerful and purging in doing what is right.