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In his highly publicized letter of resignation, State Department official Josh Paul expressly denounced Hamas terrorist acts but expressed his belief that the Israeli response is the wrong policy and that the USA should not have supplied weapons to aid that approach. I respect the sincerity of the letter and the expression of moral and practical concerns. However, for the last 11 years, this fellow has been in the section of the US government that supplies arms all over the world, and this is the first time he has moral reservations about his job? And if not to prosecute this military campaign in Gaza, what exactly are Israel’s alternatives?
I admit to holding a long-standing prejudice that State Department groupthink is often defective, especially about the Middle East.
Years ago, a former career military man of my acquaintance (a man with serious policy credentials) once lectured me from an adjacent barstool about his contempt for Foggy Bottom that, on the one hand, they think military intervention is like cash or some other material resource that can be called up without any awareness of the inherent messiness and aftereffects of killing people and breaking things. On the other hand, when a situation clearly calls for a military response, they insist on futile diplomacy because they think they are surrendering political turf to the military if diplomacy has to end. (The latter point calls to mind the feckless Cyrus Vance insisting on the pre-emptive surrender of the use of force while he pursued futile — threat-free! — diplomacy for over a year while his own people were held captive in Tehran.)
It is telling that the single greatest diplomatic triumph in recent US diplomatic history (the Abraham Accords between Israel and the Saudis) was effected by Jared Kushner and entirely contrary to established Expert Doctrine that the sheer impossibility of such a thing was why the US should simply accede to Iranian hegemony in the region and leave Israel on its own.
I greatly admire US embassy staff who put themselves at personal risk to serve US interests and protect Americans abroad. However, there is a permanent whiff of hubris (among other odors) emanating from Foggy Bottom that is considerably less admirable.
It may be unfair, but I have long suspected that the absurd deference to Yassir Arafat was driven in significant part by the fact that professional diplomats wanted a Middle Eastern Peace Accord line item in their resume and did not care how lousy the treaty was so long as they had a signed photo suitable for framing. We sent large checks to Arafat in the certain knowledge that terrorist acts would persist, that he would claim to be helpless to prevent them unless further concessions were made and that he would then ask which five-star hotel would be booked for the next round.
It would be wonderful if there were some responsible Muslim state that could be persuaded by diplomacy to rein in Hamas and selectively punish those who perpetrated this atrocity, thus reducing the need for and scope of Israel’s response. But the opposite is the case. A powerful Islamic state is encouraging and arming the perpetrators, the same Islamic state the bulk of experts in the State Department believe to be entitled to deference, conciliation, and lots of cash. Seems to me that a hell of a lot of long overdue State Department resignations would be more fitting than that of Mr. Paul.Published in