We live in a time when the resolve of democratic countries is being tested. Fighting continues unabated in Ukraine after this democratic country was invaded by Vladimir Putin’s terrorist state. Now Israel has been forced into war following the barbaric massacre of Israeli civilians on October 7th by Hamas, a non-state terrorist group supported by the terrorist state of Iran.
Anyone with even a shred of morality in them was horrified by the cold-blooded murder of babies, women, young people at a music festival and the elderly, as well as the kidnapping of over 200 people, mostly civilians, by Hamas.
But for Putin, not known for his moral integrity, the Hamas attack and Israeli retaliation were a welcome distraction from his own terror offensive against Ukraine. As the world’s media focuses on the Middle East, let us also think for a moment about the civilians in Zaporizhia and Kharkiv killed by Russian missiles this week.
Rise of rogue states can lead to collapse of international order
Of course, there is nothing that implicates the Russian leader in the Hamas attack, even if it serves his interests. However, it should be noted that his regime has held several meetings with Hamas leaders over the past year, including with a delegation that visited Moscow to discuss Israeli-Palestinian tensions.
Putin has compared the Israeli blockade of Gaza to the Axis siege of Leningrad in World War II. And it is true that Putin shares an arms supplier with Hamas because he relies on Iranian drones and missiles with which he threatens the people of Ukraine.
It was also notable that he commented on the attack in Israel for the first time alongside the Iraqi Prime Minister, who is dependent on Iran’s support. According to Putin, this is “a clear example of the failure of US policy in the Middle East”.
The rise of rogue states, terror and lawlessness is what one expert might call a breakdown of the rules-based international order. I imagine this as a situation where criminals are no longer afraid of the police in a multinational, multi-religious city. The world is such a city, the criminals have been let loose and order has collapsed.
There are many other potential trouble spots in the world
Not long before the Hamas attack, I openly told American politicians and pundits that there was a widespread perception outside developed Western countries that their country would not win another war. Observers had seen America leave Afghanistan after it was recaptured from the Taliban, more than a decade of continuous brutality in Syria, the fiasco in Iraq, Ukraine in 2014 – and Ukraine since 2022 after a dictator rolled tanks into a democratic European country , fired rockets at homes and hospitals and sent death squads to slaughter civilians.
Such criminality and barbarism requires a decisive response. However, America has exercised restraint, supporting Ukraine enough that it doesn’t lose, but not enough that it wins decisively. In the eyes of many people outside the democratic world, America appears weak. “They want to win, but they can’t,” is the opinion.
Many Americans may no longer want to be the world’s policeman. But if the cop is seen as weak, every scumbag out there will think he can get away with anything, and the challenges to the world order will only grow. What’s next? After trampling Hong Kong’s rights, will China step up its aggression against Taiwan? There are many other potential trouble spots in the world, from Kosovo to Iran.
Withdrawing from the world and letting the bad guys have their way has consequences
US President Joe Biden seems to recognize that Americans must take on a leadership role again. “Hamas and Putin pose different threats, but they have one thing in common,” he told his audience last week. “Both want to completely wipe out a neighboring democracy.” He added: “We cannot and will not allow terrorists like Hamas and tyrants like Putin to win.”
Americans often ask why they should foot the bill for maintaining world peace. But withdrawing from the world and letting the bad guys have their way has consequences. “It’s a smart investment that will pay dividends for American security for generations,” Biden said as he lobbied Congress for support for a new security package for two American allies under attack.
Those who stand in his way or try to play one democratic ally against another risk going down in history as appeasement politicians, no matter how firmly they speak.
Despair is not appropriate now
The European Union and its Member States should welcome the return of American engagement and do their part. Evil forces are seeking to destabilize European societies, whether through Putin at their borders or through other rogue states and malicious actors beyond their borders. The quicker Ukraine can be helped to victory, the less damage there will be.
Despair is not appropriate in a crisis situation. But to ensure a better and more stable future, it is essential that America and Europe give Ukraine the tools it needs to achieve victory. This goal is not inconsistent with Israel’s support against Hamas. It is part of the same fight, because when terror wins in one country, it has won everywhere.