Every war must end. In an extraordinarily useful book by that name, the late Fred Ikle noted that wars end in one of three ways: victory, defeat, or grinding along until one side goes home — leading to victory or defeat, depending on which side you were on.
Crucial to the choices are the war aims of the fighting parties. Clear aims produce clear options.
Israel and Ukraine both have explicit war aims of which the U.S. is aware. But Washington has dealt with the two wars very differently.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made his goals clear in front of the U.S. Congress. Ukraine expects recovery of all Ukrainian territory taken by Russia, including Crimea; war crimes trial for Vladimir Putin; and reparations paid by Russia to Ukraine.
While President Joe Biden has not explicitly endorsed those goals, he has more than once said his administration would stick with Ukraine “as long as it takes.” That has been accompanied by lots of money and no restrictions on Ukrainian use of American-supplied weapons.
The Council on Foreign Relations reports that U.S. aid since January 2022 totals $75.4 billion: $46.3 billion (61%) in military assistance; $29.1 billion in humanitarian relief, including refugee support and budgetary aid. The administration is seeking another $64 billion.
In the same period, a combined estimated 500,000 Russian and Ukrainian troops have been killed or injured, according to The New York Times, and 6.2 million Ukrainians have become external refugees with 5.1 million internally displaced.
After the Hamas massacres of Oct. 7, the Israeli government also posited three war aims: uproot the Hamas military structure from Gaza; maintain Israeli security control over the territory; and prevent the Palestinian Authority (PA) from taking control of Gaza in a bid for a “two state solution” favored by Washington.
President Biden has been rhetorically very good on the first goal.
But rather than offering Israel the same unconditional and open-ended support Ukraine received, the U.S., with its European allies and international organizations including UNRWA, has been increasingly determined to force Israel to adopt American — rather than Israeli — aims on the other two points.
The president himself noted, “I also advised Israelis not to let their pain and anger mislead them into making mistakes we ourselves have made in the past.”
The U.S. has not found itself under attack in the homeland since 2001, and – happily – never had more than 1,200 of our citizens tortured, raped, burned alive and beheaded in their own homes one night, or had hundreds – including babies – kidnapped to hostile territory from those homes. So, it is unclear which American mistakes he believes Israel might make without U.S. “advice.”
While the IDF operation was just getting started, Secretary of State Blinken told a Senate hearing that, after Israel succeeded in ousting Hamas, “What would make the most sense would be for an effective and revitalized Palestinian Authority to have governance and ultimately security responsibility for Gaza.”
It is well-known that the PA uses tax revenues received through the Israeli government for salaries and payments to terrorists, including Hamas terrorists. Israel announced it would withhold the amount of the payments.
The PA replied it would receive all of the money — or accept none. Washington has demanded that Israel turn over the money.
In addition, U.S. officials encouraged Israel to use American tactics from Iraq, targeting Hamas leaders “using small teams of commandos, combined with precision strikes from drones and manned aircraft.”
It should be noted that only a few months ago, the U.S. asked for “clarifications” over Israel’s use of a drones to target terrorists for fear of a “potential loosening of rules of engagement in an area that needs to see de-escalation.” During the Obama administration, there were 542 drone strikes, killing nearly 4,000 people.
Then, there was the “humanitarian-pause-that-is-not-a-ceasefire,” although stopping military operations is the literal definition of a ceasefire. Hamas used the time to reorganize its forces and send messages to its operatives, thus increasing Israeli casualties when Hamas broke the ceasefire.
The U.S. parked a battleship off the coast of Lebanon while warning Israel not to attack Hezbollah. Presumably, Israel was to think that if Hezbollah entered the war, the U.S. would retaliate on Israel’s behalf.
The U.S. rejected Israel’s request for Apache helicopters.
And in the most immediately horrific decision, the U.S. has refused to press Egypt to temporarily take Palestinian refugees into Sinai where they could receive food and medical care in safety. Tens of thousands of Palestinians are now trapped in southern Gaza and Israel will be forced to fight around them and their international organizational jailers.
The U.S. is providing Kiev with arms, money, and military carte blanche, with no timeline for success in pursuit of war aims that appear to be receding. The U.S. is providing Israel with rhetorical support, a lot of nagging and unsolicited “advice,” and military restrictions.