[This article was contributed by Arthur I. Cyr, author of "After the Cold War -- American Foreign Policy, Europe and Asia" (NYU Press and Palgrave/Macmillan). He has taught at the Universities of Chicago and Illinois, Northwestern University, and Carthage College (Clausen Distinguished Professor).]
KENOSHA --The massive, deadly Hamas attacks on Israel are rightly condemned by the United States and many nations in the world, though unfortunately not all. Beyond the shocking scale of the attacks, there are disturbing strategic implications.
Hamas has demonstrated an unprecedented capacity to plan and carry out truly massive attacks. No doubt, their strategy includes hope to goad Israel into a massive military reaction that will bring wide civilian casualties, in turn sparking a region-wide anti-Israel reaction.
United States leadership is crucial, to secure Israel and pursue regional stability. Here, history is instructive.
The 1956 Suez Crisis remains particularly important. President Dwight Eisenhower used leverage to end a secretly planned old-style colonial military invasion by Britain, France, and Israel to recapture the Suez Canal, nationalized by Egypt’s new military regime, and seize the Sinai Peninsula.
Ike’s instincts were on target, as usual, and our alliance relationships survived. In Britain, Harold Macmillan succeeded Victorian Prime Minister Anthony Eden, who belatedly acknowledged that the U.S. is the principal diplomatic and strategic leader, source of weapons as well as positive foreign aid, and other capabilities, in the Mideast and around the world
Approximately two years after Suez brought strategic disaster for the three invading nations, Eisenhower decided U.S. forces should intervene directly in Lebanon. Given the volatile situation, the intervention was risky.
American troops suffered only one soldier killed by hostile fire. Our forces were concentrated in Beirut’s city center, the port, and the airport. The crisis did not escalate, and Eisenhower withdrew our forces.
As in winning World War II and the White House, Ike demonstrated clear vision, detailed practical plans, and success.
Disciplined decision-making by Eisenhower contrasts sharply with the undisciplined, arrogant manner in which the George W. Bush administration in 2004 invaded and structurally destroyed Iraq. Our forces went to Lebanon in 1958 to occupy specific areas, on a mission limited in time as well as space.
In 1973, the disciplined hard work of President Richard Nixon and aide Henry Kissinger was crucial to Israel’s successful defense against a combined attack by Arab states. The crisis included a nuclear confrontation between Moscow and Washington.
This led to major peace agreements. President Jimmy Carter’s own determination and discipline achieved the historic 1978 Camp David peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. In 1990-91, President George H.W. Bush and associates orchestrated an enormous international effort to drive invading Iraq forces from Kuwait. Immediately thereafter, the U.S. pursued efforts for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Secretary of State James Baker demonstrated extraordinary energy and dedication in the sustained diplomacy that followed. The Madrid conference at the end of October 1991 led to the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians. This in turn facilitated the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan in 1994.
Today, scholars rightly respect Eisenhower, always revered by average Americans. The rarely discussed Lebanon intervention deserves review any time our forces become directly engaged in the explosive, unpredictable Middle East region.
After the Suez crisis, the Soviet Union cemented ties with Arab states. This ended with the end of the Cold War; President George H.W. Bush cemented American leadership.
Today Iran, Russia, and China pursue Mideast influence. The first is hostile to stability, the second our principal enemy during the Cold War, and the third our primary current international rival.
The Trump administration deserves credit for brokering recognition between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, plus Bahrain.
Currently, the rapprochement between Israel and Saudi Arabia provides a great opportunity.
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