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A World Without Rules
Plus, Kevin doesn't let a crisis go to waste.
The terror in Israel is not merely a continuation of the old cycle; it’s something new, and much worse. Attention ought to be paid before we descend into the comfort of our cliches.
This is what a world without rules looks like.
As Anne Applebaum writes, the post-World War II “rules-based world order” was often aspirational, describing “how the world ought to work, not how it actually works.” But still, those rules influenced the way the world behaved. They functioned as both a guardrail and a sort of international conscience.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the brutal attack on Israel were “both blatant rejections” of that order, she writes, “and they herald something new.”
Both aggressors have deployed a sophisticated, militarized, modern form of terrorism, and they do not feel apologetic or embarrassed about this at all. Terrorists, by definition, are not fighting conventional wars and do not obey the laws of war. Instead, they deliberately create fear and chaos among civilian populations.
The atrocities are not collateral damage. They are the point. Think of ISIS reborn, writ large — a template for our post-rule world of terror.
The Hamas terrorists paid no attention to any modern laws of war, or any norms of any kind: Like the Russians, Hamas and its Iranian backers (who are also Russian allies) run nihilistic regimes whose goal is to undo whatever remains of the rules-based world order, and to put anarchy in its place.
They did not hide their war crimes. Instead, they filmed them and circulated the videos online.
Their goal was not to gain territory or engage an army, but rather to create misery and anger. Which they have—and not only in Israel. Hamas had to have anticipated a massive retaliation in Gaza, and indeed that retaliation has begun. As a result, hundreds if not thousands of Palestinian civilians will now be victims too.
“During its lifetime,” writes Applebaum, “the aspirational rules-based world order and the international community that supported it were frequently mocked, and rightly so.” Statesmen too often looked the other way, shedding “crocodile tears” and expressing “profound concern’ when their “unenforced rules were broken.” Hypocrisy became a fixture.
But like the equally outdated Pax Americana that accompanied the rules-based world order—the expectation that the U.S. plays some role in the resolution of every conflict—we might miss the Geneva Conventions when they are gone.
Open brutality has again become celebrated in international conflicts, and a long time may pass before anything else replaces it.
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On Monday’s podcast, Will Saletan and I discussed the sophisticated, but barbaric, attack on Israel — and the political gamesmanship that ensued.
Time to grow up
“It’s worth reflecting on the issues that dominated the American political landscape just a few days ago if only to fully apprehend just how inconsequential they are,” writes Noah Rothman.
Our timeline has been clogged with the trivial, the petty, and the ephemeral; and our politics dominated by the performative demagoguery of the deeply unserious.
For the better part of a month, House Republicans argued amongst themselves over whether it was necessary or even desirable to keep the U.S. government open if they failed to use leverage they did not have over Democrats to secure spending cuts. It was a conversation divorced from political reality, and it produced only one concession from the party in power — cutting off support for a U.S. partner that has been ruthlessly invaded by an overt American enemy.
In many ways our addiction to clownishness and our willingness to toy with the politics of nihilism is a sign of our complacency. At some level, we think we can burn it all down without consequences. The events of the last few days should be a shocking reality check.
It all seems so fatuous and trivial today. The slaughter of civilians in Gaza was not a “tragedy,” as some rote expressions of sympathy for the hundreds of dead Israelis suggest. It was an assault on civilization itself. And it was not a rogue act. Evidence indicates that this medieval barbarism was supported, operationally or otherwise, by America’s state-based enemies. Nor is that an accident: Hamas’s actions facilitate the goals of the West’s adversaries all over the globe. The U.S.-led geopolitical order we take for granted is under attack.
It’s time to wake up, sober up, and grow up. Rothman:
Politics is not a sport; it is in fact often deadly serious business. We have drunk deeply from the intoxicating well of partisan political combat for so long that we’ve lost the plot.
The attack on Israel also highlights (once again) the fatuousness of “America First.”
Republicans who have loudly insisted that America should abandon Ukraine, because we have no stake in the defense of democracy in far-away countries, now insist that America remains a reliable ally to Israel. The position is strained, convoluted, and rife with hypocrisy.
So, we get Senator Rand Paul, who issued a “thoughts and prayers” statement of support for Israel, despite his attempts to block funding for both Ukraine and Israel’s Iron Dome defense shield. Josh Hawley called for all U.S. funding for Ukraine to be “redirected to Israel immediately,” as if surrender on one front would not weaken America’s standing on others.
This, of course, is the politics of America First. But, writes Adam Kinzinger, the attacks on Israel show that “The World Needs America More Than Ever.”
Well before he was elected, Trump whined about the expense of maintaining NATO and questioned its values. After his election, he began singling out individual countries – Australia, Canada, Japan, Germany, France, and many others – spreading doubts about America’s global leadership and sowing both worry and resentment in friendly capitals. Trump also slashed the State Department’s budget and degraded diplomats’ morale by assigning an advisor to monitor who was loyal to him and who was not.
Trump’s attacks on allies and his treatment of the State Department reflected his xenophobic, America First approach to world affairs. In ignoring the huge economic benefits that come to the U.S. as it leads the global push for peace and stability, Trump legitimized the idea that America could choose to go it alone. The effect of this isolationism was seen in a 2022 poll that found that only 30 percent of Republicans agreed that “It is best for the future of our country to be active in world affairs. Twice as many approved the statement – “We should pay less attention to problems overseas and concentrate on problems here at home.” (So much for the GOP example set by Ronald Reagan’s robust and powerful leadership abroad.)
Unlikely. But not impossible, because these days nothing is. Via the Wapo:
McCarthy said Monday that he is willing to resume serving as House speaker if enough of the Republicans who voted in favor of his ouster last week are open to his reinstatement.
“Whatever the conference wants, I will do,” McCarthy said during an interview on Hugh Hewitt’s syndicated radio program when asked about a possible return to the job. He echoed that sentiment hours later at a news conference largely focused on the Israel-Hamas war, deflecting direct questions about whether he thinks the situation abroad makes him best suited to lead House Republicans.
It is a notable change from McCarthy, who said Tuesday after his ouster that he would not run for the leadership role again.
What could go wrong?
Do the Democrats have an Israel problem?
While the GOP wrestles with its nascent isolationism and internecine chaos, writes Nick Catoggio, the Democrats are experiencing an identity crisis of their own.
For the moment, Democratic elected officials are united. But, he writes, “War between Israel and Hamas will test that.”
The Democratic leadership supports Israel. That’s been true for years with respect to graybeards like Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Joe Biden, who issued a solid statement on Saturday after initially being slow to respond. But it was a pleasant surprise when new House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries uncorked one of the strongest condemnations of Hamas by any American politician this weekend, vouching for Israel’s right of self-defense and calling for the terrorist invasion to be “crushed.” Democratic Rep. Ritchie Torres of New York, all of 35 years old, also spoke with admirable moral clarity: “Israel is the victim of a terrorist attack. Hamas is the perpetrator. It’s as simple as that. There are no ‘both sides.’”
The next generation of Democratic leaders may be better than any of us expect. The next generation of Democratic voters is another matter.
In March, Gallup published a poll tracking American sentiment about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over time. Republican support for Israel has been broadly consistent; independent support has fallen off but still tilts decisively toward the Israeli side. There’s been a sea change, however, in Democratic support.
That’s a swing of 41 net points on the left toward the Palestinians in just seven years. What’s driving it is an age gap: Whereas the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, and Generation X have barely budged in their levels of support since 2001, the share of young voters born between 1980 and 2000 who favor Israel in the conflict has slid 36 net points since 2016.
Meanwhile, at Harvard…
Via Mediate “Ex-Harvard Pres. Summers Sickened by Its Response to Israel.”
While Harvard’s administration has yet to release a statement on the mass murder, rape, and kidnapping of Jews in Israel, 31 student organizations at the prestigious Ivy League school signed onto a shocking letter asserting that Israel was “entirely responsible” for the barbaric deeds committed against its citizens.
The gunning down of civilians at a concert, kidnapping of children, mass rape went unmentioned in the letter, which called “on the Harvard community to take action to stop the ongoing annihilation of Palestinians.”
Summers was aghast at both the letter and the lack of a response from President Claudine Gay.
“In nearly 50 years of @Harvard affiliation, I have never been as disillusioned and alienated as I am today,” began Summers. “The silence from Harvard’s leadership, so far, coupled with a vocal and widely reported student groups’ statement blaming Israel solely, has allowed Harvard to appear at best neutral towards acts of terror against the Jewish state of Israel.”
1. Seeking the Faces of the Dead
So far, little is known about the vast majority of these victims. In most cases, even the ones who have been identified have been described only by name, age, and in some cases occupation (mostly for police, soldiers or border guards, and first responders). The task of bringing those names to life is complicated by the fact that in many cases, it’s still difficult to sort the dead from the missing, the abducted, those held hostage.
Thus, the family of Shani Louk, the young woman seen motionless and nearly naked in one of the invasion’s most memorable and horrific images, is reportedly still clinging to hope that she may have been unconscious, not dead. Louk’s body, stripped down to her underwear, was paraded on the back of a pickup truck, mocked and spat upon by a group of jeering, hooting armed men; she is widely presumed to have been murdered.
2. Amir Tibon on How His Family Survived the Hamas Massacre
Yair Rosenberg, in the Atlantic: “A firsthand account of tragedy and heroism from the slaughter that left more than 900 Israelis dead.”
Tibon and his family survived the indiscriminate slaughter, but only after enduring a horrifying ordeal. Just before he put his two young daughters to bed tonight, we spoke about what happened, how he was saved, why he thinks Israel arrived at this point, and what he would like to see from the international community in the days ahead. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
3. Republicans turn on Robert F. Kennedy Jr. as he launches independent bid
The Republican National Committee greeted his announcement with a press release that described Kennedy as “just another radical, far-left Democrat,” with a number of talking points that could be used by the expansive network of conservative commentators who tend to take messaging cues from the party.
“Make no mistake — a Democrat in Independent’s clothing is still a Democrat. RFK Jr. cannot hide from his record of endorsing Hillary, supporting the Green New Deal, fighting against the Keystone Pipeline, and praising AOC’s tax hikes — he is your typical elitist liberal and voters won’t be fooled,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement.
4. Will Hurd Drops Out, Endorses Nikki Haley
Former Republican Texas congressman Will Hurd suspended his presidential bid on Monday and endorsed fellow GOP primary candidate Nikki Haley, officially abandoning a brief campaign built on criticizing Donald Trump at a time when his party seems even more determined to embrace the former president.