Far too many observers of the Israeli retaliation against Hamas see war as a theoretical construct, not a battlefield reality.
The famed Union Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman is widely credited with popularizing the phrase “war is hell.” And he would certainly know, seeing action at some of the war’s bloodiest battles and captaining the controversial March to the Sea, where Union soldiers would run roughshod over Confederate lands from Atlanta to Savannah. That march, replete with the utter devastation of civilian infrastructure, farmland, and property, helped break the back of the Confederacy and has remained a textbook example of total war. The term ‘total war’ itself was a product of World War I, which saw entire societies mobilized for what they all saw – and some experienced – as existential combat. The sequel, which killed even more people and included the most heinous act of genocide in the modern era, was the last of these sorts of conflicts – or so many thought.
After the end of the Cold War – which was itself something of a totalizing rivalry – the mood in the West was triumphant, not just over Soviet Communism, but over History itself. Gone were the days of existential conflict, replaced by a world of progress where genuine alternatives to the liberal democratic capitalist world order were nowhere to be found. These naïve optimists were, however, flat out wrong. Alternatives to the American order have reared their ugly heads: from the CCP’s brand of techno-totalitarianism, to Vladimir Putin’s throwback imperialism, to the militant antisemitic Islamism of Tehran and Hamas, oppositional ideologies abound. And those ideologies are more than happy to engage in totalizing, existential conflict. We have seen that in Ukraine for the past 600-plus days, and we are seeing it in Israel now.
Make no mistake, the Hamas terror of October 7, combined with its genocidal ideology and the support of regional powers like Iran, poses an existential risk to the Jewish state. If Hamas is not utterly annihilated, Israel will face a future of constant attack from all fronts meant to eradicate the nation itself – and massacre its population in the process. Hamas and Iran have made this into a total war; Israel has recognized that reality and is responding in kind. And that’s where we run into problems.
Should the strong protect the weak? The answer to this question says a great deal about the divergence between contemporary European and American attitudes on foreign policy.
Over the past few decades, Western European and American conceptions of foreign policy and international affairs have drifted apart, especially during Republican presidencies in the US. Those administrations have typically been more hawkish and clear-eyed about the dangers that the West faces; from Islamic terrorism, to Iranian nuclear proliferation, to the irredentist, expansionist dangers of Russia and China. In a 2012 debate between Mitt Romney and then-President Barack Obama, Western Europeans laughed along with American liberals at Obama’s sardonic criticism of Romney’s focus on Russia as a geopolitical foe. Just two years later, Romney would be proven right, as Russia invaded Ukraine. One would think that such a blatant assault on the international order – on the European continent, no less – would undermine this attitude of naïve optimism about potential foes. Unfortunately, it did not.
Western Europe continued its permissive and conciliatory posture towards the triumvirate of Iran, Russia, and China, despite the egregious human rights abuses and outwardly belligerent stances taken by those nations. Iran should be lauded for coming to the table to discuss its nuclear ambitions, while its constant support for international terrorism and regional instability can be conveniently swept under the rug. Russia is a trustworthy source of the energy that powers our civilization, even if they are chronic saber-rattlers and seek to reconstitute the imperium of old. China must be our friend because of commerce and climate; just ignore the genocide, economic coercion, and revanchist hegemonic aims. And, of course, European nations need to spend even less on defense and focus more on positive engagement and diplomacy. What sort of barbarian spends a whole two percent of its budget on its military?! Preposterous. History has ended, and we have won.
This has been how Europe – I’m using Europe here as a shorthand for the Western Europeans who largely run the EU and influence the continent’s broad foreign policy – has behaved internationally for the past decade. And now they’re faced with the consequences of their actions.
This site is not the only place to find my writing; I have been published at numerous other outlets across the web. In this recurring series, I’ll post some choice passages from these outside pieces and show you where to find the rest. Think of this as a mere tasting of the full smorgasbord. Without further ado, here’s Compendium #2, covering mid-April through early May 2023.
Hollywood Morphs The Incredible Story Of ‘Chevalier’ Into A Blah Black-Oppression Romance, The Federalist, April 26, 2023
In this piece for The Federalist, I reviewed the film Chevalier, a biopic of the 18th century composer/fencer/revolutionary Joseph Bologne, better known as the Chevalier de Saint-Georges. I broke down how the film distorts the incredible real-life story of Bologne in service of a modern progressive narrative.