Not my circus, not my monkeys.
The America First position on the Israel-Hamas mess is clear: stay far, far away.
Being America First means that instead of spending money and sending weapons into conflicts on the other side of the world, we should focus on our problems here. In case anyone has forgotten in the last week of 24-hour war propaganda: The southern border is a sieve, 100,000 Americans a year die of opioid overdose—from fentanyl shipped from China and Mexico—and homeless encampments dot every major city in America. Before anyone in any position of power begins to think about even commenting on foreign conflicts, they should solve the crises roiling our civic life at home.
This advice, however, is utterly incomprehensible to our rulers in D.C. Democrats and Republicans alike simply cannot keep their hands to themselves. They are constitutionally incapable of staying out of wars they have no business being in.
This past week, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib was photographed flying a Palestinian flag outside her office. Representative Brian Mast of Florida responded by wearing his IDF uniform onto the House floor.
Both officials beclowned themselves. American members of Congress should not fly the flags of foreign powers or wear foreign military uniforms. Period. America is not Israel, nor are we Gaza. The answer to who Americans should support in the war between Hamas and the Israelis is simple: America.
Americans should treat the Israel-Hamas conflict they treat the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis: by ignoring it. For those who might be wondering, the Nagorno-Karabakh is a disputed region on the border of Azerbaijan and Armenia. At the collapse of the USSR, the two nations fought a years-long conflict in the region that killed some 30,000 people and displaced a million more. This last month, the Azeris launched a lightning attack that seized the disputed region. Some 120,000 ethnic Armenians have been displaced (or ethnically cleansed, depending on your point of view) in the last several weeks.
Virtually no one in America cares. And why should they? My guess is that fewer than 1 in 1,000 college educated Americans could find the Nagorno-Karabakh on a map, much less tell you anything about the last 100 years of ethnic and political strife that lead to the current crisis. Armenia and Azerbaijan are located in the middle of the Asian continent, on the border with Russia, to boot. Even if Americans wanted to get involved, what could they possibly do to solve this geopolitical nightmare?
America’s last several wars in the Middle East have been disasters and our policy of antagonizing Russia (but without declaring war) has led to long term economic and political problems (such as skyrocketing fuel prices) that simply don’t make sense for ordinary Americans.
Sorry MLK, injustice anywhere is not a threat to justice everywhere.
Injustice, war, and brutality are parts of human life. No amount of utopian dreaming, or spilt blood and treasure is going to eradicate evil from the human heart. It is madness to think otherwise.
The line between good and evil runs through every human heart: Arab and Jewish, Armenian and Azeri. This is not to say that justice does not exist or that we humans cannot know it, but it is a warning that we must remain humble in our dealings with other countries.
I have no illusions about Hamas. They brutally murdered women and children to perpetuate their political goals. I also know that Hamas’ supporters in the West would love to do to me and other “white male oppressors” what they are doing in Israel today. Hamas has shown us exactly what liberals mean when they talk about “decolonization.”
By the same token, I also understand that Israel’s interests are separate from my own. The creation of the Jewish state was not all sunshine and roses. In 1878, the Jews made up just 3% of the population in the territory that is now Israel. Today, Jews make up nearly 80% of that population. What changed? Put simply: mass migration and war. The birth of the state of Israel was, as Winston Churchill described WWII, both triumph and tragedy.
The question of the justness of this foundation is not at stake here. As Americans we do not need to proclaim one way or the other. It is enough that we recognize that we are under no obligation to involve ourselves militarily or diplomatically in such disputes.
The social contract that created the American regime was designed to protect the rights of Americans—not the rights of all people everywhere. Asking taxpayers to give up money to foreign countries or soldiers to go die on their behalf is a violation of the agreement we made in creating our Constitutional order.
Even if one could argue compellingly that the Palestinian Arabs were ethnically cleansed from their homes in 1948 that would not tell us what to do today, in 2023. America cannot right every wrong that has been done by one people to another. It would be insane to do so.
It does not matter that Israel is the only “liberal democracy” in the Middle East. America does not have democracy here at home, why should we care about spreading it abroad?
The claim that Hamas is Hitler is also a lie. Hamas could not exterminate the Israelis even if it might want to. The Palestinians are poor and lack all but the bare rudiments of a modern conventional military: this is why they have turned to terrorism and targeting civilians in order to try and achieve their political aims.
Israel today is powerful. It has nuclear weapons, generous backers, and a technologically advanced first world military. It is critical that those who are invested in the war understand the real political situation in question. Israel has support now, but the pro-Palestinian sentiment spreading on college campuses should indicate that this support is not unlimited. Israel, as a matter of prudence, should exercise restraint in dealing with the Palestinian people. This will, of course, be hard for Israeli leaders and Zionists in America to hear. The longing for vengeance is a very human passion.
Statesmanship, however, is not about satisfying the passions but about following the guidance of reason. Israel must exercise the caution and reserve that the times call for. In this situation, comparisons to the holocaust by Israeli’s leaders and defenders are neither warranted nor helpful.
On the subject of statesmanship, if George Washington were around today he would condemn American officials connecting their ethnic identities to foreign powers engaged in war. For instance, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, in a joint press conference with Bibi Netanyahu on October 12th, told the audience that “I come before you not only as the United States Secretary of State, but also as a Jew.” Blinken then referenced his personal family history with anti-Jewish sentiment.
Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden’s Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, did the same thing in an October 12th speech for the Foundation to Combat Anti-Semitism, where he discussed the Israel-Hamas conflict at length. Mayorkas related an anecdote about how his own Jewish identity informed his approach to the crisis:
“I lived this [anti-Semitism] in my own home, growing up. My mother, who escaped the Holocaust while so many in her family did not, did not have me enjoy sleepovers or sleep-away camp as many of my friends did. She had known children who left home and did not return. That tragedy compelled her, decades later, to keep us very, very close.”
In a sane country, Secretary Mayorkas’ mother not allowing him to go to sleep overs as a boy should have no bearing on America’s political decisions. Private interests should not be the grounds for making public policy in a republic and certainly not when it comes to foreign affairs.
Anthony Blinken and Alejandro Mayorkas, if they were prudent, would embrace the advice George Washington gave in his Farewell Address:
“The nation which indulges towards another an habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest…. Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence… the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.”
Americans deserve better than a political class that is more interested in the border between Israel and Gaza than between America and Mexico. We deserve leaders better than Brian Mast, Rashida Tlaib, Anthony Blinken, and Alejandro Mayorkas. We deserve leaders who actually prioritize the common good over their private identities. For better or worse, this is our circus, and these are our clowns.
Correcting this problem, not meddling in far off lands, should be our first concern.