President Joe Biden addresses the nation to discuss the U.S. response to Hamas’s terrorist attacks against Israel and Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine on Thursday, October 19, 2023. (Photo by Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The Tough Choices Facing America, Israel, and the West

As Israel ramps up operations in Gaza, Niall Ferguson, Matt Pottinger, and J.D. Vance on what happens next.

The war between Israel and Hamas is many things: a fight for the Jewish state’s survival, a destabilizing conflict that could easily escalate into something much bigger, and an acute test of American power. October 7 and the events that have followed in its wake are proving to be a pivotal moment.   

As Israel expands its ground operations in Gaza, we’re interrupting our ordinary Friday scheduling to bring you a trio of pieces that we think offer answers to important questions about what Israel, America, and the West should do next. 

First, Niall Ferguson and Jay Mens lay out the alarming stakes for Israel and its closest ally, arguing that there are no good options, but that inaction would be the biggest mistake of all. 

Second, The Free Press’s own Isaac Grafstein explains why some in Washington, led by J.D. Vance, are worried that America’s military cannot match the commitments made by President Biden. With promises being made to Ukraine, Taiwan, and now Israel, Isaac reports on growing calls for Washington leaders to acknowledge the limits of American power. 

Third, I speak to Matt Pottinger, who served as deputy national security adviser in the Trump administration and knows what it is like to be in the White House at moments of geopolitical crisis. I ask him what the Biden administration needs to do differently, especially in relation to Iran, in the wake of October 7. 

On this week’s episode of Honestly, Bari talks to two incredible guests as part of our ongoing attempt to make sense of what happened on October 7. 

First, she talks to Nimrod (whose last name we cannot share), an Israeli reservist who drove to the south of Israel as soon as he received texts from friends and family telling him something awful was happening at the Gaza border. Ignoring the orders of his reserves unit commander, Nimrod rushed toward the danger, eventually grabbing the machine gun of a dead IDF soldier and joining a special forces team in a battle to reclaim a kibbutz held by Hamas. He tells this extraordinary story on the podcast. 

Then she speaks to Avi Issacharoff, a prominent Israeli journalist who is also one of the creators of the hit TV series Fauda, which is based on his own experience as a member of an elite undercover counterterrorism unit in the IDF. Avi grapples with the question of how the most fortified and militarily sophisticated country in the world could have been overrun by thousands of armed terrorists. 

Listen to the episode here:  

Further reading on these pressing geopolitical questions:

Jeremy Stern in Tablet on Jake Sullivan, handmaiden of foreign policy failure: 

Jake Sullivan’s rise, and the avalanche of bien pensant flattery that has validated disaster after disaster, contrary to every real-world indicator, as marks of genius, is as sure a sign as any that the United States is once again ruled by a vain and arrogant aristocracy that prizes credentials over experience, and prestige over integrity, and which spends its days endlessly gratifying each other.

Dennis B. Ross in The New York Times on what Israel must do next:

Israel is not alone in believing it must defeat Hamas. Over the past two weeks, when I talked to Arab officials throughout the region whom I have long known, every single one told me that Hamas must be destroyed in Gaza. They made clear that if Hamas is perceived as winning, it will validate the group’s ideology of rejection, give leverage and momentum to Iran and its collaborators, and put their own governments on the defensive.

John Gray in the New Statesman on the big picture: 

The events of October 7 will be remembered as a day in which a new epoch of barbarism was born. In ethical terms, it will be a time when atrocities were accepted as legitimate weapons in human conflict. In its geopolitical dimension, it was the point at which the post–Cold War order finally ­fractured. We have entered a world of imperial rivalries like that before 1914, which ended in Europe’s suicide in the trenches. After the Second World War, the United States ascended to its global hegemony, which is now in turn coming to an end. The difference is that this time there is no successor on the horizon. 

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