By Rudy Barnes; Jr., October, 14, 2023
The Prussian General Clausewitz once observed that war is an extension of politics by other means; and there’s a big difference between the politics of war and the politics of peace. In war there is no ambiguity; the winner takes all by force. In peacetime, political ambiguity prevails; but it invariably ends with war and affirms the depravity of human nature.
Demagogues like Putin promote war to limit their enemies and consolidate their power. The Hamas attack on Israel was based on ancient religious hatred, and Israel is a crucible for religious violence. While America promotes democracy and supports its allies, there are limits. With renewed violence in the Holy Land, American support for Ukraine is likely to diminish.
Aid to Israel is a priority for the U.S., and Iran and Russia likely supported the Hamas attack to discourage additional aid to Ukraine, knowing that Americans are reluctant to risk involvement in two wars. There are hard foreign policy decisions ahead for America, and they are made more difficult with Congress shamefully shut down over partisan bickering.
On Friday Israel warned those in Gaza to leave in 24 hours, while Hamas called for a global demonstration against Israel. It’s ironic that Hamas can call a global protest against Israel after leading a terrorist attack against it. It illustrates the crazy politics of a terrorist war that portends a humanitarian crisis that’s beyond reason and international law.
Religious extremism is at the heart of the crisis. Zionism is a variation of Christian nationalism that has supported a third temple movement to destroy the Dome of the Rock Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. America should oppose the destruction of the Mosque since it would likely escalate a holy war throughout the Islamic world.
Nationalism leads to war, and religion is its most volatile form. Peace is America’s strategic objective; but to preserve peace America must be prepared to go to war. After more than 2 years as an Army officer in Southeast Asia in the 1960s and two trips to Moldova in the 1990s, I remain convinced that America must be prepared to go to war to preserve peace.
America and Russia claim to be Christian democracies, but WWI refuted the idea that Christian democracies would never go to war, and that losing a war guarantees a lasting peace. With NATO expecting America to carry the burden of an extended war in Ukraine and a resurgence of the War on Terror in the Holy Land, America needs new strategic priorities.
Ironically Putin has hypocritically criticized Netanyahu’s plan to invade Gaza, saying that ”civilian casualties would be completely unacceptable.” America and its NATO allies should continue to support Ukraine against Russian aggression, but America’s national debt of over $33 Trillion and the need to support Israel will limit that support; and the painful lessons of military legitimacy should prevent the deployment of U.S. combat forces in either Ukraine or Israel.
On Israel, Gaza and the Laws of War, see https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/12/world/europe/israel-gaza-and-the-laws-of-war.html. The article correctly emphasizes proportionality in the use of force as the primary standard in the Law of War, and America ignored that standard in WWII bombings at Tokyo, Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It illustrates why the Law of War is not a practical deterrent to wartime atrocities. The Law of War may be a deterrent against war crimes, but egregious violations of the Law of War by Russia by targeting civilians in Ukraine, and the terrorist attack in Israel by Hamas illustrate that it cannot be relied upon to prevent war crime atrocities. Retaliation by Israel might seem to be the only effective means of deterring future terrorist attacks, but humanitarian concerns should limit this option. When U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin echoed President Biden’s unwavering support of Israel in support of Netanyahu’s plans for a ground offensive in Gaza, both he and Biden should have conditioned U.S. support of any Israeli invasion on compliance with the Law of War. See https://www.cnn.com/middleeast/live-news/israel-news-hamas-war-10-13-23/index.html.
The UN warned that “Israel’s announcement to some 1 million Palestinians in Gaza to evacuate within 24 hours” to the southern part of the besieged territory, while Hamas told people to “stay put,” would create total chaos.” It was an unprecedented order applying to almost half the population ahead of an expected ground invasion against the ruling Hamas militant group. Hamas, which staged a shocking and brutal attack on Israel nearly a week ago and has fired thousands of rockets since, dismissed the Israeli order as a ploy and called on people to stay in their homes. Hamas staged a shocking and brutal attack on Israel nearly a week ago and has fired thousands of rockets since then. See https://time.com/6323333/israel-evacuation-gaza/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=sfmc&utm.
On countering the Politics of Christian Zionism, see
Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Politics of Christian Zionism at
For an overview of lessons learned in military legitimacy prior to 1996 (before 9/11), see Rudolph C. Barnes, Jr., Military Legitimacy, Might and Right in the New Millennium, Frank Cass, 1996. A draft of the book is posted in the Resources of The Teachings of Jesus and Muhammad on Morality and Law, at https://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/p/resources.html.
For a more current article on Special Operations training and advisory missions in 2013, see Back to the Future: Human Rights and Legitimacy in the Training and Advisory Mission, Special Warfare, 2013, posted in Resources at the above website.
On Might and Right When Going to War is a Moral or Legal Obligation, see