Sunday, June 23, 2024

Coming to America: What If That Gaza Pier is a Two-Way Street?

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Is there more than meets the eye to Biden’s half-cocked humanitarian pier?


The pier the U.S. built on the Gaza coastline has received its first cargo shipments. But it might not just be receiving imports. It might also be facilitating a new kind of export. Although perhaps we won’t hear about that till after the November election. 

POLITICO sums up the Biden administration’s ostensible thinking on the pier: “A way for Biden to show his critics that he’s taking more steps to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, while also circumventing the Israeli government’s reluctance to open its land borders to additional aid trucks.” 

In other words, the Biden administration has a clever plan for showing support for Gaza (some would say, for Hamas) while still supporting Israel. But maybe their plan is too clever by half. If it seems to you, dear reader, that it’s impossible to simultaneously support Israel and Gaza/Hamas, well, you’re not alone: The vast majority of Americans agree with you. According to various recent polls, approval for Biden’s Gaza policy hovers between the high 20s and low 30s. Moreover, the Gaza quagmire can’t be disentangled from the overall downdrift in the 46th president’s standing. 

This author is on record as being highly skeptical about the pier, from the moment Biden announced it, bypassing, as presidents are wont to do, Congressional acquiescence.  In fact, three years ago, I recalled another U.S. mission on the Mediterranean, the tragically forlorn “peacekeeping” effort in Beirut, Lebanon, back in 1983. Four decades and a few Mideast wars later, the U.S. is no more loved in the region, and now potential attackers have new weapons, such as drones, for which we are unprepared. 

Since March, some 1,000 American soldiers and sailors (plus an unknown number of contractors and other operatives) have been working on the pier, amidst various reports of attacks. In recent testimony on Capitol Hill, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said that “it’s possible” there will be more attacks on Americans. Whereupon Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, a critic of the mission, responded, “This is a very telling moment, Mr. Secretary, because you’ve said something that’s quite possible that could happen. Shots from Gaza on our service personnel.”

Another possibility, more like a certainty, is that Hamas will seize the cargo the moment it gets beyond the American perimeter, just as it has already done with other aid shipments. What will American forces do if they see scary guys with guns grabbing food meant for babies? And curiously, in some parts of Gaza, there’s a glut of supplies.  

So we are left to wonder: Why has the U.S. built a pier that isn’t actually needed for relief shipments? Answer: Maybe the real plan is “relief” of a different kind—a much different kind.

Lurking in the background are credible reports that the administration is considering bringing Gazans into the U.S. We know that top Israeli officials have been pushing for a general exodus to the West, and while they’ve been quiet about that idea of late, it’s a safe bet that Israel would still be happy seeing Gazans go somewhere else. 

So we can wonder: Is it possible that the real purpose of the pier is to get Gazans out of Gaza? Of course, given that vast majorities of Gazans support Hamas, such a plan might seem like a really bad idea, politically, for any host country. And that holds true, of course, for the U.S. Doesn’t Biden have enough problems, re-election-wise? Yet the Biden folks may do the intake plan, for three reasons. 

First, the U.S. taking in refugees could be part of an international multiparty deal on Gaza, in which many countries agree to participate, perhaps by sending aid, or peacekeeping troops—or by receiving refugees. Such deals typically depend on each participant country doing its “fair share.” Sure, taking in Gazans would be a bitter pill, but raison d’etat might require swallowing it.  

Second, the U.S. State Department, including its lifer internal bureaucracy, aka Deep State, is a powerful factor in Democratic thinking. Bolstered by a constellation of international and non-governmental organizations, liberals and progressives pay close heed to Trans-Atlantic/Acela Corridor thinking. Just as Republicans are naturally tuned to right-to-lifers and the NRA, Democrats harken to mandarins in think-tanks, the U.N., and NGOs, all of which emphasize “engagement” with the world. So, if that means engaging on the welcoming of refugees, well, that’s happened many times before.  

Third, Team Biden could be thinking that taking in Gazans would be popular, at least among key constituencies. Muslim communities in the U.S. would likely welcome them, including in the swing state of Michigan. Nationwide, there’s always a market for “compassion,” and some might see, too, future Democratic voters. And if the right hates the refugee idea? For many on the left, that’s a sure signal it must be good. 

To be sure, just because the Bidenites might be making these calculations, doesn’t mean they’re calculating correctly. Back in 1980, President Jimmy Carter unilaterally allowed a “boatlift” of Cubans, many of them criminals straight from prison, into Florida. He lost Florida that November. (The Al Pacino character in the 1983 gangster movie Scarface was fictional, but amidst the flood from Cuba, there were, indeed, some hardcore narcos.)   

As a footnote to this miscalculation, that same year, a rising star in the Democratic Party, Arkansas’s Governor Bill Clinton, was collateral damage. The Carter administration chose to plunk 19,000 Cuban refugees into Fort Chaffee in Clinton’s state; they rioted and the ensuing mess cost Clinton his re-election. (Two years later, he made a strong comeback.)  

Of course, it’s also possible that the Biden folk could tinker with the timing: Any Gaza relocation to the U.S. could happen after the presidential election. Even if Biden loses on November 5, he’ll still have more than two months in office—and that gives him plenty of time to bite the bullet if he wants to, bringing in Gazans. We might recall that a month after George H.W. Bush was defeated for re-election in 1992, he sent 28,000 U.S. troops to Somalia. The following year, Black Hawk Down. But by then, Bush was out of office. The 41st president had done his good deed for globalism; the Somalia operation was now the 42nd president’s problem.

One thing is for sure: Gazans staying where they are face a difficult fate, to say the least. For one thing, they are ruled by Hamas, although it could be that in their hearts and minds, they are Hamas.  

Speaking of “hearts and minds,” a term oft heard in the Vietnam War, it’s ominous for Israel that Gen. David Petraeus is back in the news as a go-to pundit on Gaza. Because, after all, in between the misbegotten American intervention in Vietnam half a century was the misbegotten American intervention in Iraq two decades ago. Petraeus was, for sure, canny on counterinsurgency, but the overall folly of George W. Bush’s Operation Iraqi Freedom negated Petraeus’s COIN skills. And so Iraq is now mostly controlled by Iran.  

No wonder the MSM abounds with warnings to Israel that it has been making the same mistakes the U.S. made in Iraq and Vietnam. In fact, the Israelis are rediscovering the central challenge in a counterinsurgency: cutting off the insurgents from resupply. That’s what the U.S. failed to do in Vietnam and Iraq, as we couldn’t cordon off China and Iran, respectively. Today the Israelis face the same problem with adjacent Egypt; it’s been a kind of partner to Hamas.

It seems almost gratuitous to observe that in such an environment, prospects for an international peacekeeping force are, shall we say, poor. The specter of Beirut, 1983, haunts.   

So what to do? We know, the Arab countries don’t want the Gazans in their midst. (And who can blame them?) Maybe the U.S. could, with enough effort, jam Gazans into Egypt or Lebanon or Jordan, but who wants another Middle East civil war?  

Instead, maybe we need an altogether different plan for the Gazans.

Last year this author, joined by veteran Middle East observer Dr. Joyce Starr, published Create Gaza 2, Protect Israel, Build Peace, in which we argued that the best solution is moving the Gazans to an island somewhere, most likely, an artificial island—a fresh start, on territory uniquely their own.  

We reasoned that if the Dutch, the Gulf States, and dozens of other countries can reclaim land from the sea, we can do the same for the Gazans. Put them somewhere where they will be far away from Israel, and where they themselves could be safe. We could even pay them to leave Gaza—yes, it would be expensive, but this war is expensive. Moreover, at the rate things are going, the next war will be even more expensive. 

This insular “Gaza 2” could be built, niftily enough, out of carbon captured from the atmosphere (carbon dioxide is routinely made into a solid; trees have been doing it for eons, and we humans know how to turn CO2 into cement, plastics, textiles, nanotubes, etc.).  

Indeed, if we think of Gaza 2 as a climate-change play, we can tap into the $276 trillion that Western elites plan to spend on decarbonizing the atmosphere over the next few decades. Perhaps that expenditure is not a good idea, but if it is, why not take some of the money and spend it on a project that would really improve the habitability of the planet, by putting a watery buffer zone between Israel and Gaza? Perhaps a very wide buffer zone, as in, an ocean away. Fewer people getting killed: Now that’s sustainability.  

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Admittedly, the Gaza 2 idea is well outside the Overton Window. Yet if we survey the dreary alternatives the “experts” are pushing—including a ceasefire that’s sure not to last, a Vietnam-like fate for Israel in Gaza, a Beirut-like presence of U.S. troops, an aid program that will be hijacked by Hamas, and Gazans coming to America—then the idea of building new land in the ocean for the sake of survival looks bright, even sort of brilliant. 

Indeed, once we get the hang of building new islands in the sea, we could not only help other refugee populations, but also we could expand the reclamation concept for ambitious commercial purposes—who wouldn’t want another Hawaii? Peacemaking statecraft could be a prelude to moneymaking investment. 

Yes, of course, the global elites will dismiss the idea of Gaza 2. But we should keep in mind: They gave us Gaza 1. 

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