Israel’s New Adversary: Global Jihad. By Shlomi Eldar. Al-Monitor, August 23, 2013.
of what happens in the peace talks with the Palestinians, Israel’s security is
not slated to improve. In fact, it is getting more complicated and dangerous by
the day. The global jihad network has established “Jihad Land” in the Sinai
along Israel’s southern border. With Syria still in a state of chaos, cells of
armed Islamic extremists have also set up base along the country’s northern
border and seem intent on subjecting towns there to a barrage of rocket fire
and terrorist attacks.
now, Israel has stood out as an oasis of calm in the Middle East, especially
given the bloody turbulence under way throughout the Arab world. Only now is it
starting to feel the shrapnel from the civil wars and conflicts raging in
neighboring countries. This is a new situation, which requires a completely new
assessment and approach. We are no longer talking about a fight against groups
like Hamas and Hezbollah, which have established addresses for an Israeli
military response and discernible targets against which Israel could wage war.
The new terror groups, collectively known as global jihad, are operating along
the country’s borders as small autonomous cells without permanent addresses or
a supreme leader.
the past few years, Israel, Hamas and Hezbollah have set very distinct rules
for the game, among them red lines that are not to be crossed. The result is a
balance of deterrence between the belligerent forces. The Second Lebanon War
and Operations Cast Lead and Pillar of Defense against Gaza were milestones
during which the limits of permissible (and impermissible) actions were
determined. These events set clear boundaries for terrorist groups, which were
quick to realize that traversing those boundaries would result in an Israeli
response. The greatest deterrence that Israel has when confronting Hamas and
Hezbollah is the threat of destroying the groups’ welfare and communal
infrastructures, which moor them to their respective communities. Damage to
Hamas’s welfare institutions or to the communal institutions of Hezbollah would
hurt them much more than an assault on any military target or notable. The one
thing that keeps these groups alive more than anything is their close tie to the
both Hamas and Hezbollah have clear political interests that obligate them to
maintain the peace along their borders with Israel. The political honey trap
that they have created around themselves constantly forces their leaders to
carefully consider their steps before they get entangled in a military
encounter with Israel.
two organizations operate militias, which are organized like an army in every
conceivable way. In contrast, global jihad activists move from place to place
and from region to region with considerable alacrity. It is not usually known
who heads these groups or who gives the order to act, and in most cases, the
members of a cell will vanish from the region within moments of having
fulfilled their orders. Very little is known about the Salafist organizations
operating in the Sinai, Syria and southern Lebanon. These are such small,
decentralized groups that even if one were to be obliterated, there would be so
many others left to take its place, they would in no way be impeded by an
such organizations have taken responsibility for firing on Israel on Aug. 20.
The first is the Ansar Beit al-Makdas Brigades, which has emerged over the past
few years to become one of the largest cells in the Sinai. Within days, it was
joined by two previously unknown organizations in southern Lebanon, the
Abdullah Azzam Brigades and the Ziad Jarah Companies, which fired Katyusha
rockets at the Galilee. Does anyone know anything about these brigades and
companies that bear the names of martyrs? Does anyone know how many militants
they have in their ranks? Where they train? Who funds them?
week Israel received further evidence that it is entering a new era of
terrorism against it, this one without borders or addresses. Lebanese Sunni
Sheikh Siraj al-Din Zuriqat, considered to be the religious leader of the
extreme Salafist groups, wrote on Twitter, “From now on, Hezbollah’s role of
defending the Jews will be made difficult to impossible.” This absurd statement
was intended to clarify that the Salafists who entered southern Lebanon from
Syria are in no way committed to any understandings reached between Hezbollah
Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah’s organization and Israel.
has an explicit interest in maintaining the peace in Lebanon and ensuring that
the border with Israel does not heat up. Salafist global jihad activists have
no such internal political interests or external commitments. If the groups
gathering along Israel’s northern border believe Hezbollah is a movement
devoted to protecting the Jews, then who knows. We might yet see Nasrallah and
the Israel Defense Forces joining forces to fight a common enemy. Given the
insane rush of events occurring in the Middle East, even the most delusional
absurdity could become a reality in an instant.
In Defense of Football. By Max Boot. Wall Street Journal, August 17, 2013.
In defense of football. By Daniel Flynn. New York Post, August 17, 2013.
Plagiarism or coincidence? Writer, Wall Street Journal, square off. By Dylan Byers and Hadas Gold. Politico, August 23, 2013.
Stop Freeloading Off Freelancers. By Daniel J. Flynn. The American Spectator, August 23, 2013.
Foreign Policy by Whisper and Nudge. By Thomas L. Friedman. New York Times, August 24, 2013.
follow the commentary on American foreign policy toward Egypt and the broader
Middle East today, several themes stand out: People in the region argue:
“Whatever went wrong, the United States is to blame.” Foreign policy experts
argue: “Whatever President Obama did, he got it wrong.” And the American public
is saying: “We’re totally fed up with that part of the world and can’t wait for
the start of the N.F.L. season. How do you like those 49ers?”
is actually a logic to all three positions.
starts with the huge difference between cold-war and post-cold-war foreign
policy. During the cold war, American foreign policy “was all about how we
affect the external behavior of states,” said Michael Mandelbaum, the Johns
Hopkins University foreign affairs expert. We were ready to overlook the
internal behavior of states, both because we needed them as allies in the cold
war and because, with the Russians poised on the other side, any intervention
could escalate into a superpower confrontation.
foreign policy today is largely about “affecting the internal composition and
governance of states,” added Mandelbaum, many of which in the Middle East are
failing and threaten us more by their collapse into ungoverned regions — not by
their strength or ability to project power.
what we’ve learned in Bosnia, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Egypt and Syria is that
it is very hard to change another country’s internal behavior — especially at a
cost and in a time frame that the American public will tolerate — because it
requires changing a country’s political culture and getting age-old adversaries
primary foreign policy tools that served us so well in the cold war, said
Mandelbaum, “guns, money, and rhetoric — simply don’t work for these new tasks.
It is like trying to open a can with a sponge.”
another country change internally requires a mix of refereeing, policing,
coaching, incentivizing, arm-twisting and modeling — but even all of that
cannot accomplish the task and make a country’s transformation self-sustaining,
unless the people themselves want to take charge of the process.
Iraq, George W. Bush removed Saddam Hussein, who had been governing that
country vertically, from the top-down, with an iron fist. Bush tried to create
the conditions through which Iraqis could govern themselves horizontally, by
having the different communities write their own social contract on how to live
together. It worked, albeit imperfectly, as long as U.S. troops were there to
referee. But once we left, no coterie of Iraqi leaders emerged to assume
ownership of that process in an inclusive manner and thereby make it
Libya, where President Obama removed Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s top-down,
iron-fisted regime, but he declined to put U.S. troops on the ground to midwife
a new social contract. The result: Libya today is no more stable, or
self-sustainingly democratic, than Iraq. It just cost us less to fail there. In
both cases, we created an opening for change, but the local peoples have not
made it sustainable.
the three reactions I cited above. People of the region often blame us, because
they either will not or cannot accept their own responsibility for putting
things right. Or, if they do, they don’t see a way to forge the necessary
societal compromises, because their rival factions take the view either that “I
am weak, how can I compromise?” or “I am strong, why should I compromise?”
blaming Obama — for leaving Iraq too soon or not going more deeply into Libya
or Syria — it grows out of the same problem. Some liberals want to “do
something” in places like Libya and Syria; they just don’t want to do what is
necessary, which would be a long-term occupation to remake the culture and
politics of both places. And conservative hawks who want to intervene just
don’t understand how hard it is to remake the culture and politics in such
places, where freedom, equality and justice for all are not universal
priorities, because some people want to be “free” to be more Islamist or more
the traditional tools of foreign policy, we can stop some bad things from
happening, but we cannot make good things happen,” noted Mandelbaum.
instance, if it is proved that Syria has used chemical weapons, American
officials are rightly considering using cruise missiles to punish Syria. But we
have no hope of making Syria united, democratic and inclusive without a much
bigger involvement and without the will of a majority of Syrians.
often we forget that the people in these countries are not just objects. They are subjects; they have agency.
South Africa had a moderate postapartheid experience because of Nelson Mandela
and F.W. de Klerk. Japan rebuilt itself as a modern nation in the late 19th
century because its leaders recognized their country was lagging behind the
West and asked themselves, “What’s wrong with us?” Outsiders can amplify such
positive trends, but the local people have to want to own it.
reality has sunk in, so has another reality, which the American public intuits:
Our rising energy efficiency, renewable energy, hydraulic fracturing and
horizontal drilling are making us much less dependent on the Middle East for
oil and gas. The Middle East has gone from an addiction to a distraction.
that five years ago someone had said to you: “In 2013, Egypt, Libya, Syria,
Tunisia, Yemen and Iraq will all be in varying states of political turmoil or
outright civil war; what do you think the price of crude will be?” You’d surely
have answered, “At least $200 a barrel.”
it’s half that — for a reason: “We now use 60 percent less energy per unit of
G.D.P. than we did in 1973,” explained the energy economist Philip Verleger.
“If the trend continues, we will use half the energy per unit of G.D.P. in 2020
that we used in 2012. To make matters better, a large part of the energy used
will be renewable. Then there is the increase in oil and gas production.” In
2006, the United States depended on foreign oil for 60 percent of its
consumption. Today it’s about 36 percent. True, oil is a global market, so what
happens in the Middle East can still impact us and our allies. But the urgency
is gone. “The Middle East is China’s problem,” added Verleger.
knows all of this. He just can’t say it. But it does explain why his foreign
policy is mostly “nudging” and whispering. It is not very satisfying, not very
much fun and won’t make much history, but it’s probably the best we can do or
afford right now. And it’s certainly all that most Americans want.