Action and Reaction: FAA edition

Earlier I wondered how gormless the West’s political elites must be, given their habit of saying and doing exactly the wrong thing.

Normally we have to wait to see politicians’ boneheaded decisions bare bitter fruit… but not this time!

Late last month the FAA halted flights by US carriers to Israel’s Ben Gurion airport. United States Senator (Texas) Ted Cruz questioned whether the actions undertaken by the FAA were politically motivated punishment for Israel or, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted, “the decision only rewards the Hamas terrorists”;

Well, surely that’s just hyperbole and Hamas paid the actions of the FAA little heed. Or not. As a Hamas spokesman said “The success of Hamas in closing Israeli airspace is a great victory for the resistance, and is the crown of Israel’s failure,” either way. Well, “Safety is the very first priority for DOT, for FAA,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. “As the situation continues to evolve, we will adjust our guidance accordingly.”

What a relief!

Don’t worry though, Marie Harf at the State Department is going to set Hamas straight: “The rocket fire needs to stop. And we do want them to return to ceasefire talks, so that is something we are certainly still pressing with relevant parties[.]” Got that? Stopping US carriers from flying to Israel’s only international airport isn’t “a great victory for the resistance”.

 

On a related note, our hashtag divisions stand ready at the borders of Ukraine.

Needless to say, whether the FAA’s decision was based only on safety or on political pique by the current administration, the situation is the same: the FAA’s actions have dramatically reduced the chance of meaningful movement in the peace process. Indeed, I will go so far as to say that ten years from now the decision by the FAA will be regarded as the death knell of the two-state solution.

The FAA’s decision, as the words of Eugene Kontorovich made clear, shows “that Israel has a sword at its neck: face a private-sector no-fly zone or agree to a cease-fire that lets Hamas keep its rockets, and thus close Ben Gurion Airport again at the time of its choosing.” This is the case whether or not you note that the FAA’s decision is dramatically different from how it has dealt with the much more severe danger in Pakistan, for example. (Hat tip to the Yid with the Lid.)

The further irony is that the more the FAA and the Obama administration stick to the line that the FAA’s decision was non-political, the worse the damage will be to the two-state solution and the peace progress. After all, if it was really a political decision then when a more… let’s say supportive administration comes into office, the politics will change. If on the other hand the FAA’s reaction of last month is what can be expected regardless of the administration in power, then Israel must, for the sake of continued economic existence, understand that any amount of militarization (which has followed autonomy like night follows day) in the Palestinian territories constitutes giving a veto to the Palestinians over Israel’s international trade.

So… congratulations? The Obama administration has managed to maneuver itself into a situation where all possible outcomes are bad outcomes and all their efforts actively work against their own stated goals.

Action and Reaction

Sometimes it seems that Western politicians and governments have no idea how to actually go about accomplishing their stated goals. Sometimes it’s so bad you ask yourself “are we being trolled here? Is this an elaborate joke? Are the Illuminati behind this?”

“We didn’t do it.”

Putting aside the idea that our political class is simply ignorant, self-satisfied and venial to the point of dysfunctional (it certainly couldn’t be that…), let’s take a look at a recent set of actions and their entirely predictable reactions. The Obama administration and several European nations want to… let’s call it pressure, the Israeli government into using a lighter hand in their conflict with the Islamic death cult of Hamas (although arguably they are a Nazi death cult).

To that end, there has been an announcement from the British government that if “significant hostilities” resume in Gaza it would suspend 12 arms export licenses to Israel (source, discussion). Today there has been a report that contends that the White House and State Department have stopped an arms resupply shipment  to Israel and will  be exercising “greater oversight” on future munition shipments (contrary to a WSJ report, the procedure followed by the Israelis and the Pentagon was entirely normal).

Let’s put aside all questions of antisemitism and double standards (“Paris has issued formal guarantee to Moscow to build two Mistral class helicopter carriers”, anyone?): broken down to the simplest analysis, the current political leadership of the US and some other Western nations are seeking to persuade Israel by threatening to compromise Israel’s military capacity (or as we see above, actually compromising).

All of this has not, as they say, gone unnoticed. There is a growing sense in some sectors of the Israeli government that (as a conservative American publication put it) they are “On their own: Israel cannot count on the US“. To a certain degree there is a perception that this situation will change when the presidential administration changes. Former Israeli deputy defense minister MK Danny Danon;

We must take into account that in two and a half years’ time, President Obama won’t be sitting in the White House, and we will remain here with the threats and the challenges[.]

While I would agree that Obama’s successor will almost certainly adopt a… different tact, it is equally clear that a nation under continuous armed threat from its neighbors (beyond the problems with the Palestinians, Israel has the enviable position of bordering Syria and thus a front row seat to both the Assad regime and the incubator of ISIS) cannot make strategic plans that depend on the vicissitudes of EU and US politics.

So what to do? Well…

Chen Bingde, visiting chief of the General Staff of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), shakes hands with Israel’s Defence Minister Ehud Barak in Tel Aviv August 14, 2011. [Photo/Xinhua]
As Europe slides ever so quickly into a state of primordial Jew-hatred, Israel seems poised to revive some very ancient relationships: the relationship with the Far East. While the events of the recent Gaza conflict cause people to ponder Is the sun setting in the West and rising east in China?, this development is, at best, only an acceleration of a long standing trend of growing military ties between Israel and China (see also  China, Israel vow to improve military ties, August 15, 2011). The relationship is not so strange as it may at first blush seem (and I’m not just referring to the famous love of Jews for Chinese food): there is a surprising and curious admiration of Jews and the Jewish state in the Middle Kingdom, which is certainly a refreshing change.

That said, while the warm feelings between the traditional cultures of these two nations undoubtedly help, the matter depends more on shared political and practical needs then shared ideology. Israel needs a secure source to supply their military and customers for their products: while Israel undoubtedly has the technical capabilities to manufacture their own munitions, the issue lies in logistics. It’s far more advantageous to supply a large army (or several armies) then a small force. For it to make real financial sense for Israel to bring more and more of its suppliers in-country, they need a buyer. Enter China with its inexhaustible hunger for everything and vast military to supply, stage right.

It’s all very simple, very logical, and entirely predictable. Or at least it will be right up until Western politicians notice it and start complaining.

When Pictures Tell Half the Truth

Imagine that I showed you a picture: corpses, men, women and children all piled up. A great heap of them, stacked like so much trash, limbs broken, eyes vacant, all about them the look of violent death.

Let me be so bold as to assume you would think this the evidence of a terrible crime, one no civilized nation could commit and no civilized man could countenance.

Suppose then that I showed you a picture of the piled casualties of the February 1945 bombing of Dresden;

“Bundesarchiv Bild 183-08778-0001, Dresden, Tote nach Bombenangriff” by Hahn. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0-de via Wikimedia Commons –

No one disagrees that the bombing of Dresden was a terrible thing, but by the same token no one (well, no one serious) imagines that the Bombing was simply an act of opportunistic murder undertaken for the sake of bloodthirst. Serious people understand that moral clarity cannot come without an understanding of all of the facts.

Less then a month before Dresden was bombed the Auschwitz Death Camp had been liberated.  The horrors of  Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen and Dachau would continue for weeks after Dresden. From September 1940 to May 1941 London and fifteen other British cities had faced bombardment by air, with tens of thousands of civilians killed. Dresden cannot be understood without Aushwitz and the Blitz of London, nor Hiroshima and Nagasaki without Pearl Harbor and Nanking. Put another way, you cannot look at the piled dead of Dresden without the memories of other images in mind…

London Blitz

It is the practice of the enemies of the West to deceive with half truths. As William F. Buckley observed,

To say that the CIA and the KGB engage in similar practices is the equivalent of saying that the man who pushes an old lady into the path of a hurtling bus is not to be distinguished from the man who pushes an old lady out of the path of a hurtling bus: on the grounds that, after all, in both cases someone is pushing old ladies around.

Today more then ever the enemies of the West, and of Israel particularly, take every opportunity to tell the world that we ought to pay no attention to who is pushing the old lady out of the way of the bus and who is pushing her into the path of the bus. Today so many in the media, either through ignorance or malice, would have you believe that the conflict between the State of Israel and the Terrorist group Hamas that controls Gaza simply sprang from the ground, a fit of pique on the part of the Israelis.

For example, this imagine, chosen to accompany an Associated Press article;

MOHAMMED ABED / AFP/GETTY IMAGES

A heart-wrenching albeit fascinating image. (As others have noted, it’s a curious thing that a small boy would be writing on a blackboard in the ruins of s school, even more so for a child that presumably speaks Arabic to be leaving graffiti in English. An uncharitable person would think the shot staged, but that would be silly…) But that picture, like so very many images and language choices made in covering the ongoing conflict in Gaza, is intended more to inflame then inform. To understand that picture, after all, one must understand it in the context of a broader set of images and statements, such as;

Israel is a pluralistic, western democracy locked in a struggle with nihilistic death cult, which freely and openly states that there can never be a peaceful resolution to the conflict. For all that, the IDF has engaged in the most restrained and merciful military actions in the history of modern (or, for that matter, ancient) warfare. Yet this is war, and no amount of care can prevent civilian casualties when one side seeks to armor their munitions with the bodies of their own children.  So Israel must continue, understanding what the British understood in World War II, as stated in the words of Air Chief Marshal Arthur Harris (by way of Wikipedia);

I … assume that the view under consideration is something like this: no doubt in the past we were justified in attacking German cities. But to do so was always repugnant and now that the Germans are beaten anyway we can properly abstain from proceeding with these attacks. This is a doctrine to which I could never subscribe. Attacks on cities like any other act of war are intolerable unless they are strategically justified. But they are strategically justified in so far as they tend to shorten the war and preserve the lives of Allied soldiers. To my mind we have absolutely no right to give them up unless it is certain that they will not have this effect. I do not personally regard the whole of the remaining cities of Germany as worth the bones of one British Grenadier.

The IDF has a responsibility to do what it does because it must be done. It is incumbent on all who have the luxury of being informed second hand not to fall into the trap of half-truths being laid out to snare the goodhearted but under informed.