Saturday, June 11, 2016

A World of Shifting Alliances

Distracted by the entertainment that passes for politics we sometimes miss the important events that are taking place in the real world.

The American presidential election campaign continues to resemble reality television, down and dirty and shameless. It rivets our attention and distracts us from a reality we no longer seem to be able to influence.

While we pretend to be thrilled that Hillary Clinton is the first female major party political candidate and are no longer even shocked that the presumptive Republican nominee has colonized the television screens with yet another insult, the world continues to turn.

Call it the Obama legacy—not without reason—but America is becoming less and less a player on the world stage. Other powers are stepping into the vacuum, for good or for ill, and are defining a new world order.

Caroline Glick has a trenchant analysis of the foreign policy goings-on concerning Israel. She observes recent Israel-centered events in France and Russia and analyzes their importance and relevance.

In Paris, French President Francois Hollande knows that America’s retreat from world leadership has provided an opportunity for him and his nation. I have on several occasions spoken well of Hollande, a competent president, one whose competence stands in stark contrast to that of our current president and the candidates on offer from the major political parties. For different reasons neither a Trump nor a Hillary presidency will come close to restoring American leadership on the world stage.

Anyway, Hollande decided to try to do what John Kerry and Barack Obama had failed to do: to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Coming fast upon yet another Palestinian terrorist attack in Tel Aviv, the atmosphere was not exactly congenial.

One might remark that the conference was doomed to irrelevance before it even started-- neither of the contending parties were represented. All told, it was a bust.

Glick explains:

In his opening remarks, Hollande recycled the tired claim that the way to defeat jihad is by forcing Israel to give Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem to Islamic terrorists. The document the French Foreign Ministry circulated among participants ahead of the confab recommended setting a timetable for forcing Israel to give the PLO Judea, Samaria and large swathes of Jerusalem, for the benefit of global security.

The French planned their event before the mobs in Ramallah, Hebron, Jerusalem and Gaza publically celebrated the cold blooded massacre of Israeli diners at Sarona market on Wednesday night. But the latest massacre wasn’t necessary to show the absurdity of France’s plan to defeat jihad by empowering jihadists at Israel’s expense.

After all, Israel surrendered Gaza to the Palestinians eleven years ago. Far from ameliorating the problem of jihad – in Europe and throughout the world – the scourge of Islamic war has grown geometrically in the past decade.

Hollande erred because he was not conducting diplomacy on the world stage but was playing to the unruly and growing Muslim minority in his own country.

True enough, French authorities had cracked down hard on Muslims after the attack on the Bataclan. The French president had denounced Islamic terrorism and had not uttered the world Islamophobia. And yet, he still felt a need to throw a bone to his constituents, so he directed the conference against Israel.

For the record something like 90% of French Muslims voted for Hollande in the last election. At the least, the man has political courage. Or, at least he did until he compromised his position by holding an Israel-bashing conference.

European leaders are trying to ride a tiger. Increasingly, their citizens are fed up with Islam and feel no need, whether for compassion or empathy, to welcome more unassimilable and increasingly criminal refugees into their midst. As a side light, yesterday a poll from Great Britain shows that Brexit—that is, exiting from the European Union—is now ahead by around 10%.

The Paris peace conference ended up producing the kind of statement that you expect from the United Nations—on a good day:

In the conference’s closing statement, the most they could muster was a weak condemnation of Jewish construction on the one hand and Palestinian terrorism on the other coupled with a call for direct negotiations between Israel and the PLO.

While all this was taking place, the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, a man much reviled in the Obama administration, was in Moscow, holding formal meetings with Vladimir Putin. The Russian president is not very popular these days, but surely he knows how to play power politics on the world stage.

While Europe and the American left, Glick remarks, has made Israel-bashing a centerpiece of their foreign policy, and while Obama has made no secret of his contempt for the Israeli leader, Putin has seized the opportunity to embrace the Jewish state.

Glick writes:

Tuesday Netanyahu arrived in Moscow for his fourth meeting with Putin in the past six months. Unlike their other meetings, this week’s visit was both ceremonial and substantive. Moscow and Jerusalem celebrated the 25th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic ties between Israel and the Soviet Union, which Moscow cut off after the 1967 Six Day War.

Putin lavished Netanyahu with the honors befitting a major ally. In so doing, Putin showed that Israel is anything but isolated, and far from dependent on the goodwill of European basket cases.

She continues:

In contrast, under Putin, Russia has chosen to base its foreign policy – and its bid to replace the US as the chief powerbroker in the Middle East – on reality.

As a result, during his meetings with Netanyahu, the Palestinians were given the attention that they deserve, as a minor nuisance.

After paying lip service to the mordant “peace process,” Putin and Netanyahu got down to business. They discussed everything from Iran’s rise in Syria to Israel’s gas industry to free trade to the approaching rapprochement between Israel and Turkey.

The distinction between the business of real statecraft for a real world as practiced by Netanyahu and Putin, and the imaginary statecraft practiced by the French and their guests is jarring. Putin is determined to emerge strengthened from the chaos now engulfing the Middle East, and through it, the world as a whole. As a consequence, he is embracing Israel as an ally and a trading partner.

Israel is not merely forging alliances with Putin’s Russia. It has started working with India and China, has renewed diplomatic relations with Egypt and has been negotiating with Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. To Glick, this signals Israel’s strength and suggests that Israel is no longer as dependent on the good will of America or Europe. It also means that the West has abrogated world leadership.  It does not mean, she adds, that the United States will become a bit player, but it does mean that it will now be sharing world leadership with other rising powers.

In her words:

As Netanyahu is doing with Putin as well as with China and India, recognizing America’s new limitations, Israel must diminish its dependence on Washington, while developing non-competing alliances with other powers, based on shared interests.

What Israel’s attractiveness to other world powers makes clear is that as America’s power wanes, Israel needn’t and oughtn’t seek to replace it with another superpower patron. Israel today is fully capable of fending for itself.

Putin courts Netanyahu because Israel is strong. And the stronger it is, the more leaders will beat a path to our door.

The failure of France’s “peace” conference, on the one hand, and the success of Netanyahu’s fourth visit to Moscow on the other hand were poetic bookends of the week because they were a vivid exposition of Israel’s true diplomatic and strategic position today. Israel is neither weak nor isolated.

It is embraced by the rising powers. And the waning ones that scapegoat the Jewish state are leading their countries into economic and cultural decline and security chaos.


Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

"Call it the Obama legacy—not without reason—but America is becoming less and less a player on the world stage."

I am not trying to be clever or pedantic, but I think the word "legacy" sounds too enriching, sophisticated or congratulatory. The better euphemism is the "Obama design." It's not a doctrine, and it would seem this Administration believes its diplomacy with our greatest enemy in the world -- Iran -- is its highest achievement. So the diminishment is intentional, and thus by design. There is no alliance, there are no benefits, there is no legacy to be proud of. I suspect this doesn't bother Obama at all. Indeed, it is social justice on a global scale (think global, act local"). And, as you say, countries like France, Russia and China have stepped into the void. The trajectory of our diplomacy is so insane, so haphazard and so baseless that the simplest explanation is that it is intentional, and thus "The Obama Design."

JPL17 said...

Ignatius -- I agree "The Obama Design" is a better euphemism then "The Obama Legacy", but I think "The Obama Destruction" is more accurate. In foreign relations, he has built nothing, and destroyed much, all by design (as you correctly point out).

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

JPL17 @June 11, 2016 at 5:59 PM:

I can see where you're going, but I'm going to stick with "The Obama Design." Here's my logic: Yes, the result is destruction. But think of how great it all could've been if all the rosy ideas came to pass. And Obama gets a pass: destruction means that mean people made things difficult, and he had the best of intentions. So it's the DESIGN that counts, not the outcome. Isn't that the way Leftists work? Be kind, JPL17... he's tried really hard.

priss rules said...

Rise of politics as game of celebrity really began with Kennedy. But with style and grace.

Reagan mastered the art because he understood acting.

But Clinton loused it up with his shameless boomer gen mugging.

It's been downhill since then.

Obama craze is esp disgusting because the media promoted him as a kind of messiah.

With the Obama hangover is the realization that US is a cultural and moral wasteland.

JPL17 said...

"Be kind, JPL17... he's tried really hard."

OK, I'll try to be kind. I guess Obama probably at least thinks he means well.

Also, thank you for elaborating on your "The Obama Design" idea. Now I think I see where you're going with it. A possibly ironic reference to an elaborate or radical design that someone intends to build but never does. Perhaps like the "Palace of Soviets" building designed by Boris Iofan -- ambitious and radical, but never built, and hideous to behold.