Defending our friends ; (top) Kurdish troops rescue the Yazidis on Sinjar Mountain (photo by Harem Karem) (bottom) big rally “I Stand With Israel” in Paris
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The world is finally alive to the barbarians who call themselves ISIS. It took a while; but the world is now responding, and so are we, the United States. we are defending the Kurds, our best allies in the Mesopotamia region. We are fighting on their side. we will not fail; because we can’t, and neither can they.
The President’s people that they are doing this because they didn’t want another Benghazi. Maybe so ; but on the ground, the facts are what they are. And what they are — along with the facts of our rock solid support for Israel in its fight against Hamas, is that we, the United States, are now actively defending — with money and weapons and with people — our two best allies in the entire region, the only full democracies in it.
We are doing this at the same time that we have a friendly, solid government in place in Egypt, for the first time in six years; a solid, moderately reforming autocracy in;place in Saudi Arabia; a solid friend ruling Jordan; a deal in process with Iran, whose enemies are ours too; and with Russia distracted by its dead-end adventure in the Ukraine.
We are defending our friends and showing our other friends in the region that we mean business — finally.
President Obama ; ‘this will take a long time”
Not since the Fall of Iran’s Shah in 1979 has our Middle east Foreign Policy shown such effective coherence. that event upended the region and unhinged our own policy. An era of terrorism came upon us and demanded our attention. we focused on the immediate crisis. Even Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, in 1990, was an immediate, local crisis; we solved it as we had the other local crises; but our policy seemed to look no further.
then came the biggest crisis of them all, 911; also a local crisis, though we did not realize it at the time. this one, too, we solved — so thoroughly that President Bush was riven to overreach ; the second Iraq war was terribly planned, miserably misconceived; it was pursued under flag of freedom : the President said so. freedom is, of course, a good thing; but most of the Middle East has rarely known any freedom and moves at a tribal level merely. Reaching for freedom was several bridges too far.
Then there is Israel. Again, we have treated Israel’s many struggles with Hamas and others as local crises; we support Israel, yes we do — always. But that support has often, since 1979, seemed unrelated to any general policy principle, much less ;policy in action.
But now that has changed — If we realize it. If we see that we are now defending not freedom but autonomy; not democracy as such, but the right of our allies not to be slaughtered by barbarians or terrorist rockets. Not regime change, but regime support.
Encourage our friends, whatever their lifestyle, so to speak. In this, our Middle East policy seems to mirror the best of our domestic arrangements : celebrate diversity. Don’t try to make people be who you want them to be; respect them as they are, and defend their rights.
That, it seems to me, is the right policy for us to parade all across the Middle east, as we fight only those who threaten our friends without seeking to make our friends be what we are.
The new policy has enormous political consequences here in America. Yes, almost everybody supports the Kurds, but a significant portion of the non-Jewish left does not support Israel — indeed, oppose it. The new Middle east policy unites almost all the Republican party : the Christian right, for religious reasons supports Israel; the realists support it for policy reasons. the Democratic party, however, looks badly split, between the realists in Washington and Jewish Democrats on the one hand versus the non-Jewish left on the other. Before the ISIS mob attacked the Kurds, the split over Israel looked a big deal. Now it has, to a large extent, been forgotten in light of the horrors being wreaked in northern Iraq.
Still, that split is real. I myself have been “unfriended; on facebook by a few people who I thought were pretty good friends — obviously i was mistaken. I imagine the same thing has happened — a lot — to everyone who defends Israel on social media.
The split may heal before the 2016 election begins to heat up ; but it also may not heal. Friendships have been broken, and no one on either side is likely to forget that. Certainly Jews can NOT forget it. Jewish history reeks of abandonment by almost everybody. Every person of Jewish ancestry knows the history and has probably experienced it personally as have I.
Meanwhile, the disparate pieces of our local-crisis Middle East policy are cohering into one comprehensive, very doable, very realistic message : “friends, we stand with you, money and weapons if need be; to defend you as you are and as you want to be !”
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere
below : ( 1 ) the Goldins bury a son ( 2 ) Kurdish Pesh Merga fighter rescuing & embracing a Yazidi child (photo by Hare,m Karem)