Smart politicians kiss babies with a smile and are polite to old ladies. No one wants to appear a bully or a boor. That is unless you are Donald Trump, for it is exactly what he has been doing this week to his cost … at least temporarily.
Thanks to his squabble with Ghazala Khan, he has sunk in the polls — but for how long? It was her story that caught fire after the Democratic convention. Her husband the dignified Khizr Khan expressed his grief for his son, Captain Humayun Khan, who sacrificed his life to save his men. He ordered his men back to safety while he ran toward the suicide bomber’s truck causing it to explode prematurely, saving their lives. He was awarded a posthumous Bronze Star. Now I am not sure how these honors are evaluated, but surely a man who gives up his life to save a company deserves better.
What is the origin of IS and its predecessor that cost the captain his life? A new book by London School of Economics professor Fawaz A Gerges (ISIS: A History) attempts to do precisely that. From the blunder of an oversight in the traditional amnesty when the young King Abdullah ascended the throne, which released Abu Musab al- Zarqawi (who proceeded to head the group and respond through the bombing of the Radisson SAS hotel in Amman killing over 60 people wounding many more) to the disenfranchised Ba’ath party officials after Saddam’s overthrow, the book’s thesis puts everything in the pot: it blames the breakdown of state institutions caused by foreign intervention, rising sectarianism since the intervention, decades of dictatorship, failures of development, poverty, and even the Palestinian stalemate.
The latter is turning into a vicious Israeli-Palestinian tribal war where the norms of civilized government in Israel’s institutions are being violated. Settler men kidnapping a twelve-year old Palestinian child and setting him alight, or an Israeli army medic not just refusing to treat a wounded Palestinian but shooting him dead are not the images of Israel likely to garner support for it on the world stage.
Not only absolutely appalling, Israeli behavior is distinctly harmful on the world stage for the US, especially when UN General Assembly votes often take the form of the rest-of-the-world one way, and two votes (the US and Israel) against. There is a book, The Israeli Lobby by two renowned American political science professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, explaining why. Sometimes European countries join the US leaving them particularly vulnerable — it is far easier to cross the Mediterranean than the Atlantic.
One feels particular concern for Israeli peace groups increasingly marginalized and Israeli peace journalists like Gideon Levy who now feel unsafe. Shouldn’t these folks be getting US support if the objective is peace? Or is it. As Uri Avnery the well-known Israeli peace activist wrote in a column recently, Hillary certainly does not support him.
If the neocons wanted to destabilize the secular regimes they felt could pose a threat to Israel, they succeeded in Iraq and Libya. But here is a thought: one can reason and compromise with secularists, can one with religious fanatics who ‘know’ the one true path? The neocons got more than they bargained for and have left most of us with a severe headache.
Bombing continues from Libya through Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan … leaving the US in a state where war is the norm and peace exceptional. Had these wars been won and the world stable, there might be logic in this policy. There is a reason why Trump’s “death, destruction and devastation” mantra has a ring of truth that resonates with a substantial part of the electorate and why he had a better than even chance in November — until his latest fiasco which no doubt will soon be forgotten.
In the meantime the Europeans are paying the price being exacted by a wounded ISIS, while refugees have cast a shadow over the EU’s fragile commonality. Southern Europe has paid heavily, and Brexit has put an end to the quest for a United States of Europe.