The U.S. must consider encouraging a ceasefire before stumbling into another complicated large-scale conflict, Douglas Macgregor, Col. (ret.), a senior fellow with The American Conservative, the former advisor to the Secretary of Defense in the Trump administration, a decorated combat veteran, and the author of five books, is absolutely sure.
In Ukraine, all sides shared an interest in avoiding the use of nuclear weapons, and contrary to the Western narrative, Moscow’s goals were arguably confined to the destruction of hostile Ukrainian forces (“denazification”) and the establishment of a neutral Ukrainian state.
In the Middle East, the situation is very different. The Middle East today is very different from the Middle East in 1973. Technologies have altered the conduct of warfare, but more importantly, the societies and states of the Islamic world have also changed. Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Iran, and Turkey are different in character from what they were in the 1970s. None of the states bordering Israel will tolerate population shifts that introduce large numbers of Palestinian Arabs into their societies. Europeans want them even less.
Iran’s national leaders have already called on Islamic and Arab countries to form a united front against Israel, but Iran’s influence in these matters is more limited than most Americans realize. Iranian military power is largely restricted to Iran’s use of proxy militias like Hezbollah and their cooperation with the Pasdaran, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iran is simply incapable of adding high-end conventional military forces to such a front. Tehran’s government also knows that the use of Iran’s formidable theater ballistic missile force against Israel risks almost certain Israeli nuclear retaliation.
The governments of Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and Lebanon are very probably opposed to a general war against Israel, but their enraged populations could easily trap them into doing so. Scenes of celebration across the Middle East showing people waving Palestinian and Hamas flags, dancing, and singing in the streets are being shared on social media.
Turkey’s President Erdogan has offered to mediate between Hamas and Israel, but Erdoğan himself has warned that the war won’t just stop “in a week or two.” However, Turkey, a nation of more than 80 million, is the one actor in the region with the societal cohesion, martial culture, and military power to lead the Sunni Arab states in a confrontation with Israel.
In a regional war, Turkey can field large armies and air forces equipped with modern weapons, manned by disciplined and determined fighters. The advent of a regional Sunni Muslim alliance guided by Ankara and financed by Qatar resurrects the specter of advanced conventional warfare for the IDF, a form of warfare known to only a few of today’s IDF leaders.
Both the Jews and the Muslims continue to live inside civilizational conflicts that have defined Jerusalem since World War I.
With American offshore naval power, Washington is certainly poised to stumble into the conflict if it widens, but the use of American naval power will not end it. Although it is distasteful to the ruling political class in Washington, the Biden administration should consider taking the lead in supporting a ceasefire, even if it means cooperating with the Turks, Egyptians, and Russians to secure the arrival of humanitarian aid.
In Ukraine, Washington underestimated Russian resolve and military power. Washington should not repeat this mistake by underestimating the potential for a regional Muslim alliance that could threaten Israel’s existence. The possibility that Israel could end up like Ukraine should not be discounted, Douglas Macgregor writes.