When powerful nations are provoked by their less powerful neighbors, are those nations justified in responding with massive military might?
When it comes to the current war between Israel and Palestine, the answer given by most American politicians and pundits is a resounding "yes" while world opinion remains more diverse.
For example, the European Union has condemned the recent invasion of Gaza, particularly because of the high number of civilian casualties and what it calls "the loss of lives caused by disproportionate use of force by the Israeli Defence Forces and the humanitarian crisis it has aggravated."
Many critics are calling for an immediate cease-fire and a return to diplomatic efforts. In Israel's view, diplomacy ended the moment Hamas began firing missiles into their country.
Last summer, when the country of Georgia spent two days launching missiles into South Ossetia, a province along the Russian border whose sovereignty has long been in dispute, Russia responded by invading Georgia. Much like Israel's response to attacks by Hamas, Russia declared that Georgia's insistence on attacking South Ossetia was in defiance of diplomatic efforts.
While world opinion remained diverse, most American politicians and pundits sided with Georgia, making arguments similar to those of Israel's current critics. Russia's response was "disproportionate" and "brutal." Immediately dismissing any suggestions that Georgia was the aggressor, a flustered John McCain said of Russia's invasion, "This is about hundreds of thousands of individuals whose lives are being taken." Much like those who recently protested Israel's actions in Gaza, McCain was concerned about the lives lost first and the details second.
Israel and Palestine, Russia and Georgia — none are completely innocent; each have their crosses to bear. My purpose here is not to pick sides but to offer an alternative perspective.
America's foreign policy, as illustrated by comparing the U.S. reaction to Israel's recent invasion to Russia's invasion of Georgia in August, often has more to do with old alliances than any objective truth. But do these alliances do us more harm than good?
When traditional conservatives, liberals, and others argue that America's hyper-interventionist foreign policy is the cause of many of our problems and that they would like to see the U.S. do less around the world, they are called "isolationist" or worse. But like it or not, Israel and the U.S. are seen as one-and-the-same in the Middle East, a fact that should make Americans uncomfortable given the never-ending instability in that powder keg of a region.
With the recent events in Gaza in mind, perhaps it's time to add a new term to the lexicon of political cuss words when discussing American foreign policy — "interventionism."
For some, interventionism is a far more dangerous prospect for the United States than simply minding our own business. Writes former CIA counter-terrorism expert Michael Scheuer:
"If America were blessed with a non-interventionist foreign policy, we could all thank Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for giving President-elect Barack Obama a thoroughgoing lesson in the absolute irrelevancy of Israel and Palestine to the national interests of the United States. More than a week into Israel's invasion of Gaza, America is still alive and kicking and none of our citizens are dead, which is the way it should be, as this is their religious war and not ours. If stubborn non-interventionism were our creed — as the Founders intended — the Gaza war could continue for two more days or two more months and we could simply shrug and mutter 'Who cares?' America could simply go on its way, rebuilding its economy and marveling over the madness of two religions fighting to the death over a barren sandpit at the eastern end of the Mediterranean."
Scheuer is right. During the Q&A session of a speech I gave the day after the election, a gentleman asked, "What should we do about Russia?"
I replied, "Nothing." He looked puzzled.
The disproportionate wars waged by Russia or Israel are only harmful to the United States due to the disproportion that exists in the American mind, where it is always assumed not only that something must be "done about Russia" but that we are the country who must do it.
Not being "for" Israel or Palestine, or Russia or Georgia, or any other country, does not mean we are against them, but in making these alliances we have found that their enemies are now against us. The alleged benefit of making the concerns of others our own has been grossly disproportionate to its cost. And any price paid for finally daring to put America first would be infinitely preferable to the never-ending disaster of trying to bail out the entire world.
Catch Southern Avenger commentaries every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on the "Morning Buzz with Richard Todd" on 1250 AM WTMA.