The barbarism and savagery of Hamas’ attack on Israel offer a tragic reminder that while history may not repeat itself it does tend to rhyme. An all-too-common refrain through the ages is that weakness invites aggression. When the world thought it could appease Hitler with the Munich Agreement in 1938, it got World War II in 1939 when Hitler invaded Poland. Today, we’d be wise to ask ourselves what our enemies are hearing from us, and why they feel emboldened to commit atrocities with such brazen disregard for consequences.
One clue to our enemies’ mindset comes from the Kremlin’s statement after the attack that warned of a “high risk” that a “third party” might enter the conflict. This is a classic Orwellian statement from a regime that can’t quit its post-Soviet nostalgia. Putin’s “Ministry of Truth” doesn’t want to reveal the truth that a third party is already a party to the conflict: Iran.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has so far refused to claim that Iran was directly involved in the attack, but he acknowledged Hamas wouldn’t exist without Iran’s support. The Kremlin’s statement also suggests that Iran isn’t merely acting as a nation-state but as part of a broader Axis of Authoritarianism that includes the Chinese Communist Party, Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and other rogue states like North Korea.
We, therefore, view Hamas’ attack in isolation at our peril. We know that Iran is providing drones to Russia to bleed the West in Ukraine, and we know that China wants not only to take over Taiwan but also to displace the United States as the world’s leading power.
And what are our enemies hearing from us? Sadly, the Axis of Authoritarianism abroad hears an axis of authoritarianism at home – an increasingly weak, fractured, and corrupt left and right that is no longer liberal or conservative but two sides of the same authoritarian coin. When our enemies see an illiberal left with its cancel culture fight an autocratic right that wants to contort itself into accommodating figures that seek to suspend the Constitution, they see a perfect moment to attack.
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One area where we should stop telegraphing weakness is energy policy. Before Russia invaded Ukraine, we at C3 Solutions were one of many voices warning that Europe’s policy of outsourcing its carbon emissions to Russia communicated weakness and invited aggression. Now, we’re seeing the Biden administration defend an energy policy that is a stimulus program for Hamas. By harassing and obstructing American producers, we’re not stopping carbon emissions and saving the planet. Instead, we’re outsourcing those emissions to regimes that produce more carbon less efficiently and cleanly and use their proceeds to threaten our friends and allies. Taking American energy out of the supply chain doesn’t reduce global demand, it creates more opportunities for Iran, Russia, and China to meet demand, build their militaries and fund their terrorist proxies.
For instance, Iranian crude oil exports have increased nearly fourfold since 2020 and Chinese imports of Iranian oil are at their highest level in a decade. In other words, Iran is using the funds it receives from selling oil to China to finance terrorist organizations that are killing Americans and Israelis. That’s why U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and other Senators are urging the Biden administration to cripple Iran’s ability to sell oil through sanctions or other actions.
In addition to its energy policy, another expression of weakness was the Biden administration’s decision to gift Iran $6 billion in exchange for hostages. The administration’s insistence that Iran will use those funds for “food and medicine” is naïve and delusional. All money is fungible. Reducing Iran’s need to spend $6 billion on food and medicine gives Iran an extra $6 billion to fund its terrorist proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah. Nikki Haley is right to call on the Biden administration to freeze Iranian access to that $6 billion and instead send those funds to Israel.
Unfortunately, when our enemies listen to some on the right they hear a different kind of weakness, a weakness of accommodation and appeasement.
Vivek Ramaswamy has come out in favor of ending aid to Israel and opposing military force against Iran. Candidates like Haley and former Vice President Mike Pence fiercely criticized Ramaswamy. Haley and Pence are calling for decisive action against Hamas but aren’t interested in an endless military conflict. Rather, they recognize that human history is a forever war between freedom and tyranny and that the best way to give freedom the upper hand is to be vigilant and firm in the face of aggression. We can only achieve peace through strength, not weakness.
Ramaswamy was wrong to backpaddle on our support to Israel but he’s right in other ways. For instance, he’s correctly indicted the far left’s climate agenda as duplicitous. As we’ve often argued, the left isn’t as interested in combatting climate change as much as they are in waging a proxy war against capitalism so they can advance unrelated socialist goals like free college, universal day care and government-run health care.
Yet, Ramaswamy lacks the moral authority to deride the “climate cult” when he’s serving as a high priest in Trump’s cult of personality. If we lack the moral clarity and resolve to oppose authoritarianism at home, why should our enemies fear our threats to take on authoritarianism abroad? When Vivek talks, our enemies like what they hear.
Unlike many “New Right” experts (and some presidential candidates) I’ve spent time in conflict areas like the Balkans and Middle East and listened to people’s stories. The similarities between Israelis, Palestinians, Serbs, Croats, Albanians, and Macedonians are far more profound than their differences. I call it the “people are people” doctrine. Yes, there are important and heated differences and disagreements, but people generally want to pursue happiness, practice their faith, and be left alone to raise families in community. Yet, tragically, nothing brings people together more profoundly than grief, especially among parents who have lost children. In every conflict zone, people of good faith who are willing to tackle vexing problems resent being marginalized and having the conversation hijacked by extremists who prefer violence over dialogue.
None of those voices of reason have a chance of succeeding when Hamas murders and kidnaps not only Israelis but Americans like Cindy Flash, a 67-year-old mom who, as USA Today reported, “spent a lifetime advocating for the rights of Palestinians.” Flash, who was living in a kibbutz near Gaza, is presumably a Hamas hostage.
We owe it to Flash and people of good will in the region to reject the Biden/Ramaswamy chorus of weakness and instead pursue peace through energy independence and strength.