America: Right and Wrong Reasons for Inaction

July 17, 2006 at 1:02 am (International community, Israel, Middle East, Military, News, Palestinian Territories, The United Nations, The United States, US Government)

It’s not often this happens, but I disagree with an article of The Jerusalem Post.

Nathan Guttman of The Jerusalem Post writes in “US Affairs: Backing off” that there are two major reasons why the Government of The United States has not become involved as a major player in the current Arab-Israeli War. In the introduction to these two he mentioned an influential factor that I disagree with. He says that The Government is reluctant to get involved because of the bad timing of these events (what with attention and effort needed to deal with the crises with North Korea and Iran), because The Government has embraced a more multilateral and cooperative model of dealing with international affairs, eschewing “cowboy diplomacy,” and because of lack of communication or contact with various actors in the War. I disagree with all three points.

It is true that the current War and the events that precipitated it have arisen at a time when The Government’s attention and efforts are directed towards managing its international contacts and clout to deal with the situation with North Korea and with Iran. But this does not mean nor ought to suggest that The Government has been somehow caught in such surprise that it does not know what to do or cannot do anything, particularly when handling two other issues. Rather that assuming their inaction means inability, one should see whether such inaction is deliberate. I say that it is deliberate. First of all, there is little for The Government to say or do. The United States’ relationship with Israel is such that we recognize the predicament Israel is in and we support Israel’s efforts to defend itself, even if it is in such an offensive (that is, going on the offensive) manner. The Government, in its statements, have said as much: it supports Israel but calls for restraint/minimizing civilian damage. The Government sees no need for mobilizing its resources or the international community’s resources because doing so would disrupt what must, unfortunately, happen, which is the eradication of terrorist organizations.

Much as been made of The United States’ laying aside of so-called “cowboy diplomacy,” America’s gung-ho unilateral diplomatic and military efforts and programs. Whereas it is true that The Government seems to have scaled down its strident unilateralism, I do not see this as something that effects The Government’s choices of action very much. In fact, the current War may even indicate that The Government hasn’t embraced the international community as much as some say it has. If The Government had done so, it would have referred this issue to The Security Council, The Arab League, The European Union, and/or to a myriad of other organizations out there. But The Government has not. In The Security Council, The United States have repeatedly struck down efforts to become involved in this issue, and this can be interpreted as a continuation of The United States’ uncompromising unilateral policies. A permenent member’s veto is no small issue: that The United States have been very open in using it in this issue demonstrates that its foreign policy may not have changed so much.

Some point to The Government’s cooperation with the international community on the issues of Iran and North Korea as signs of embracing the international community and international regimes (such as The United Nations or G-8). But this is because both issues affect states other than The United States in such a way that they are also involved. Rather than hijacking the issue and making it all about The United States, The Government is wisely incorporating these other states in the alliances dealing with Iran and North Korea. One should recall that the primary example of The United States’ “cowboy diplomacy” was Operation Iraqi Freedom: this is somewhat misleading because before acting somewhat unilaterally (it should be pointed out that The United States have acted in concert with a wide range of allies in all of their operations, which also puts a dent in the image of The United States as a non-thinking, bulldozing cowboy) they tried to win the international communty’s support and involvement. It was only after the international community refused to cooperate and refused to honor their obligations that the coalition assembled by The United States and The United Kingdom sprang into action without the involvement of The United Nations. (It should also be noted that this coalition acted well within the provisions set out in a number of resolutions: it did not need any new authorization. But that some powers openly tried to frustrate the coalitions last-ditch efforts to get authorization they did not need, it became obvious that The United Nations could not be depended upon.)

Also within this issue one should consider the comments made by two representatives: the Ambassadors of Lebanon and The United States to The United Nations. Their comments chastized The United Nations in very clear words. Is this a sign of embracing or distancing oneself from the international community?

The third point brough up by Mr. Guttman is the issue of lack of communication between The United States and the terrorists. I will have to concede that this is a potentially significant point in explaining The Government’s supposed inaction. On one hand, I am glad. The Government should not be able to negotiate with terrorists because if it can, then terrorists will find a way to hold the Nation hostage, and this is utterly unacceptable. On the other hand, I am not so naive as to think The Government has no channels open with which to communicate with whomever it wishes to communicate. I believe The Government has unofficial contacts as well, besides official contacts such as the governments of Egypt and Jordan.

But the more important point is that there is nothing, really, The Government can say. What can our government say that the terrorists will listen to that closer allies (Egyptians, Jordanians, Turks, others) have not already said, often in tones and words far more respectful than what The Government would use? The issue is larger than kidnapped soldiers. It goes beyond that to organizations attacking Israeli civilians, organizations threatening Israel’s national security and integrity, organizations controlled by foreign powers bent on destroying Israel or, if that’s not possible, plunging the Middle East into a bloodbath. To say The Government has not done anything because it can’t communicate with the terrorists is to misunderstand the situation. Neither Israel nor The United States want to negotiate with the terrorists. The consequences of doing so would be disastrous, astronomically disastrous. We might as well ask the Jews to politely jump into the Sea now.

In summary, The Government’s actions are deliberate. What is does is deliberate, what it is not doing is deliberate. The Government knows how to act in this situation, and to characterize The Government’s lack of action or involvement would be to misunderstand the situation and to misunderstand The United States’ role in the Middle East. The Government is slowly moving away from enabling Palestinian terrorists to making them assume responsibility for their actions, government, progress, and development. This is crucial, absolutely crucial, for the development of an environment in the Middle East where the common people will realize that their skewed perceptions are no longer tolerated or patronized by The United States, without whom they would be nothing. The United States are putting significant amount of pressure on the terrorists by, in an almost Daoist manner (see wu wei, a Daoist (“Dao“, “Daoism“) concept), not applying pressure.



  1. Christopher Taylor said,

    I think all three of his points would be accurate and valid points… were it not Israel fighting other nations. They can handle things on their own without needing our help at this point.

  2. Muslihoon said,

    Very well said, Christopher.

    I find that to be relieving. At least one country we can support and that’s actually capable. Thanks for the comment!

  3. jayne said,

    It seemed to me that the U.S. was trying to first get at least a slight admittance by Russia and Germany that Israel had been wronged before we offer help. By doing that first it might be harder for Russia to openly back Iran. Your opinion is, no doubt, far closed to reality!

  4. Matthew Brown said,

    I agree that the US is wise to abstain from any but verbal support for Israel at this time. But I must add that the US did a great favor to Iran and Syria by invading Iraq, and that the Hizboys are probably just trying to goad the Iranian government into taking action by shaming Iran and Syriafor their military inaction. By rousing Arab public opinion (once more) to back an all-out attack on Israel, Hizbolla (sp) pressure Arab governments to respond. For its part, Israel has acted with relative restraint, and shows no signs of wanting to repeat its mistake of invading Lebanon (a rat’s nest of ethnic and religious conflicts that makes Iraq look tidy by comparison).

    There were many smaller reasons to invade Iraq, but one reason not to: It destabilized a region before the groundwork to deal with the result had been laid. It is one thing to wage justified war; it is another to wage it effectively in concert with wise diplomacy. This, I think, the US has failed to do, and by this failure has let down its greatest ally in the region, Israel.

  5. Rob B. said,

    IMHO, the worst disservice the US did to Israel is backing the whole “Road map to Peace.” Giving the land to the Palestinians, emboldened and validated all of the terrorist actions prior to that event. That more than anything has pushed Israel into a reaction. They tried appeasement and found that it didn’t work.

    Iran’s instability and Syrias actions of backing Hexbollah pre-existed the Iraq invasion so while them may have gained from it it doesn’t strike me as the primary cause. I feel that Lebanon moving towards democracy on it’s own may have pushed up Iran and Syria’s desire for resistence because the anti-syrian factions of the Lebonese people are gaining more political power.

  6. John E. Carey said,

    July 21, 2006 at 17:03:49


    by John E. Carey

    Paralyzed: UN Reacting Badly

    By John E. Carey
    July 21, 2006

    The U.N. is setting a new standard of ineptitude and weakness in international conduct.

    Currently, the U.N. is paralyzed as Israel battles terrorists including Hezbollah. It is pretty clear that Iran and Syria have been backing the terrorist.

    “Iran is standing by the Syrian people,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi proudly told reporters.

    Last Friday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad boasted that Israel was not tough enough to counter Iran and also warned against an attack against Syria.

    “Thanks be to God, despite its criminal and savage nature, the Zionist regime and its supporters in the West do not have the power to look in the same way towards Iran,” the fiercely anti-Israeli president wailed.

    “If Israel commits another act of idiocy and aggresses Syria, this will be the same as an aggression against the entire Islamic world and it will receive a stinging response,” Ahmadinejad said in a telephone conversation with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad.

    The hard-line Iranian president, who said Israel should be “wiped off the map” or moved as far away as Alaska, has also compared Israel’s military strikes on Gaza and Lebanon to tactics used by Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler.

    The U.N. has reacted with: nothing.

    Israel and Hezbollah are engaged in a life or death struggle. Hezbollah, backed by Syria, Iran and large part of Lebanon, has proclaimed its intent to remove Israel from the earth.

    Israel, backed by the United States, won’t go without a fight. In fact, it looks like Israel may now be in the business of shelling its way to a new buffer zone on the border with Lebanon.

    How do you make friends with a nation, or dare I say a people (What did Ahmadinejad call it? “The Entire Islamic World”) when they are not shy about screaming that they want to destroy your country?

    Israel’s move against Hezbollah has revealed one of the reasons behind everyone’s frustration in the region of South Lebanon. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon – known by its acronym Unifil — has a long history of ineptitude, laxity and corruption. As a “peacekeeping” force, Unifil is a totally ineffective..

    Some might say that the U.N.’s “peacekeepers” have allowed this pot to come to a boil.

    Other smart Americans say we should give the U.N. more of a chance to solve the problems of the Middle East and elsewhere. Well, Unifil has been working to keep the peace in the Middle East for only 28 years. How much more time should we give them?

    “They [Unifil] are barely able to take care of themselves,” said Timur Goksel, referring to the UN peacekeepers. “How can you expect them to do their work?”

    The blue-helmeted UN Unifil soldiers include a moderately trained and semi-disciplined Irish brigade. These Irish UN troops were routinely referred to as the “whisky army” by both Islam and Jewish observers who came into contact with them. The Israeli-backed Christian militiamen – known by the Unifil acronym LAUIs (Lebanese Armed and Uniformed by Israel) countered any effort by the Irish troops to stray far from their base at Camp Shamrock.

    And we hate to give red meat to “red necks” but our dear friends the French command Unifil just now.

    Over the past few years, with the U.N. paralyzed, Israel consolidated its border “security zone” and Iran began to openly support the terrorists, many of whom are called the Lebanese Shia Amal movement. Rememeber: these guys are in a life or death struggle.

    Right now the U.N. is paralyzed again, or further, depending upon ones point of view.

    Unable to effectively manage and organize the evacuation of innocent civilians from Lebanon, the U.N. is enviously eying USS Nashville, USS Trenton, USS Whidbey Island, USS Iwo Jima, USS Gonzalez, a bunch of CH-53 Super Stallion helicopters, the commercial liner “Orient Queen,” [leased by the U.S. to evacuate U.S. citizens and their families] the U.S. Marines, and a protective cover including U.S. Navy destroyers.

    Americans are leaving Beirut under a security umbrella of protected comfort and moving toward home in a fairly rapid manner. Non-Americans are mostly leaving by cargo ship to make the five hour U.S. vacationer’s cruise ship journey in the hold of a hot cargo vessel in a 16 hour manner without toilets.

    Today, July 21, the American-leased motor ferry Rahmah, with a capacity of 1,400 passengers, arrived in Lebananon and the high-speed ferry Victoria M, with a capacity of 330, also started taking Americans out.

    “It feels wonderful to be back in the States. We just want to thank so much the State Department and the people that helped the government, the Marines, to help get us out,” said one arrival at BWI.

    But Americans who left Lebanon with European evacuees on non-U.S. vessels said they encountered a far rougher journey.

    “We went on a cargo ship from the port of Lebanon. … It was horrible. There were no facilities on the ship, just get out alive, that was it. We were on the ship for about 16 hours. It’s a trip that takes about 4 or 5 hours,” said Tom Charara from Long Beach, Calif.

    The cruise ships the U.S. chartered to bring out U.S. citizens – equipped with a duty-free shops, gourmet restaurants and beauty salons – normally carry up to 800 vacationers each on Mediterranean cruises.

    Despite some criticism from the American liberal left, American evacuees coming out of Lebanon have mostly praised the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Navy and the Marines: but nobody has anything good to say about the U.N.

    Amidst all this, on July 14 a court handed down the first guilty verdict in the “Oil for Food” scandal at the U.N. In that caper, sneaky insiders at the U.N. and other influence seekers made millions from Saddam Hussein while they were supposed to be enforcing post Desert Storm sanctions.

    Americans should take heed that we are in a world-wide war against terror that has any number of ramifications and dangers — especially when one travels to the Middle East on summer holiday.

    Thanks to the Kofi Annan U.N., the world is managed like a bad little league team. Only the way the UN runs the team today costs way too much [but the US pays most of the bills so the little countries don’t really seem to care].

    The U.S. Department of State, Ambassador John Bolton, and the U.S. Armed Forces are demonstrating true professionalism. The rest of the bit players, especially Kofi Annan’s U.N., should be ashamed. But shame is an emotion that has lost its impact on most world “diplomats” and “peacekeepers.”

    Multi-lateralism doesn’t seem to always be in the best national interest of the United States.

    But don’t forget for one second that this is an all or nothing proposition for the Israelis. Not a joking matter.

    Mr. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultans, Inc.

    Our thanks to all involved at the U.S. Departments of State and Defense. /

    John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.

  7. Muslihoon » US giving Israel leeway: win-win said,

    […] In a previous post (“America: Right and Wrong Reasons for Inaction”), I fisked an article by Nathan Guttman of The Jerusalem Post, disagreeing with his opinions on why America has not sought to become directly involved in the Arab-Israeli War. […]

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