The rise of progressive politics in the United States, like the rise of every populist movement to have ever happened, stems from the rise to fix trouble at home. Indeed, the new progressive movement has emerged the strongest on the need to fix trouble at home.
But, when it comes to trouble abroad, the progressive movement has a series of gaps they need to address.
Now, that is not to say that everything that the new progressive movement advocates for constitutes a gap; indeed, many of the policies that they call for, such as questioning the size of the United States military budget, the effectiveness of the war on terror, and how the United States currently interacts with other countries, are all basic diplomatic questions, and, undoubtedly, come out of a need to fix trouble at home. Where the left has its gap comes from a misunderstanding of the basic fundamentals of geopolitics.
The first basic misunderstanding of geopolitics concerns the relationship between the geopolitics of a country and the actions of a leader of said country. The basic rule of foreign policy is this: Nations don’t have permanent allies, only permanent interests. Yet often times, liberals view it from the action of “This leader did this, while this leader did this.”
A good example of this is the conflict between India and Pakistan. Currently, the two rulers could not be more different. The ruler of Pakistan, Imran Khan, is a man who likes to look inward, reform his country and fix trouble at home.
The leader of India, Narendra Modi, on the other hand, could not be more different from his Pakistani counterpart. Modi is someone who looks outward, and making India into the next great superpower. Through it, he has said about reforming India’s complicated politics by simplifying its bureaucracy to make India a manufacturing powerhouse (make in India initiative) and cracking down on Kashmiri separatists.
The latter has deserved the left’s, and indeed, the international community’s attention. It is not the only act of controversy surrounding Nerendra Modi, indeed, up until 5 years ago, he was banned from visiting the United States, probably for his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, and is now seen side by side with Donald Trump at a “Howdy Modi” rally in Houston. With Modi’s apparent crackdown on Kashmir and Imran Khan standing in solidarity with the people of Kashmir and being the only voice of reason, many on the left have called for rethinking the alliance with India and standing with Imran Khan in a means to combat Modi’s Hidunationalist antics.
This, however, is very short – sighted. The reason for it has to do with geopolitical alignment.
Ever since September 11, 2001, the United States has had a policy of combating global jihad influence; with some successes, and some stagnations. The main approach to the problem of terrorists since 9/11 has been outlined by the Bush doctrine of “we will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts, and those who harbor them.” (Quote from an address to the nation made by George W. Bush on September 11, 2001)
Using this, the United States had made no distinction between the Al – Qaeda terrorist network who had committed the terrorist attacks, and the Taliban government of Afghanistan who had harbored them, launching an invasion of Afghanistan, overthrowing the Taliban government, and destroying all of the Al – Qaeda bases in Afghanistan, forever ending the capability of Al – Qaeda to ever launch any major attacks on the United States ever again.
So, why wasn’t that the end of it? Why are terrorists still a problem? Well, the Bush Doctrine forgot a third factor, something that the modern progressive left has been keen to bring in to the fray. What the Bush doctrine should have included was making no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts, those who harbor them, and those who fund them.
The left has utilized this with regards to questioning the special relation with Saudi Arabia, a well known funder of Islamic terrorism. Yet, such calls are absent when it comes to Pakistan.
Now, is there direct evidence linking Pakistan to Al – Qaeda? No. But, there have been too many close calls for comfort for the United States.
After a long time of being wanted, Osama Bin Laden was finally found in Pakistan. Yet not in the Taliban – held tribal areas of Waziristan. He was instead found in a secure compound, in a very dense neighborhood of the city of Abbottabad, not too far from the capital city of Islamabad, and next to the main Pakistani training academy.
This obviously raises questions as to whether or not the Pakistanis had any involvement in harboring Osama Bin Laden, and if the answer is yes, the United States would have in their right to invoke the Bush doctrine and declare Pakistan to be an enemy of the United States. And there were such calls at the time, however they were soon forgotten about, and because many of these new progressive were either too young to be paying attention and/or not thinking about political office at the time, calls to cut aid and question relations between Pakistan and the United States went unnoticed by them as well.
Add to that that many of the Kashmiri separatsist groups, which have safe – haven in Pakistan, while do not have openly direct ties to Al – Qaeda, have overlapped with Al – Qaeda too much for comfort, and Al – Qaeda has long praised the Kashmiri separatist movement, as many of the separatist movement have long to establish a caliphate in Jammu and Kashmir. The left uses this argument with regards to the rebels in Syria, and why it was a mistake to arm the mujahideen during the Soviet Union’s occupation of Afghanistan. And yet they do not do this with regards to Kashmir, even though many of the Kashmiri separatist movement groups are jihadists and want to establish a caliphate in Kashmir. It doesn’t matter who’s in charge, what matters is geopolitical alignment. Nations don’t have permanent friends, only Permanent interests.
The second basic misunderstanding of geopolitics concerns just that: Long – term lasting peace and diplomacy must be centered around ensuring that the geopolitical needs of all the constituents are met.
One example where this is most shown is the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Many people on the left have embraced the “Free Palestine” movement and have called for an unconditional Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights, and the formal end of the Gaza Blockade. However, there is one question that should be asked, which is, “Is there a geopolitical significance to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that would explain Israel’s presence there?”
This is an important question, of not just this conflict, but any conflict, in order to achieve lasting peace. You cannot bring a peaceful resolution to any conflict without understanding the geopolitics behind what caused the conflict to occur in the first place. Otherwise, that would be ignorance. What are the geopolitics behind Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen? After all, this isn’t the first time Saudi Arabia has intervened in Yemen, and it won’t be the last.
But to answer the original question: “Is there a geopolitical significance to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that would explain Israel’s presence there?” The answer is yes.
The West Bank can be broken into two areas, the mountain area, and the Valley area. The Valley area (the Jordan River valley) sits at the base of a steep canyon, which serves as a natural buffer zone between Israel and Jordan, securing Israel from any attacking force striking on the East Bank of the Jordan River. If there ever was to be an independent Palestinian State in the West Bank, two things would happen that would make Israel lose this advantage:
First, since the creation of an independent Palestinian State in the West Bank poses a direct threat to the sovereignty of the Hashemite monarchy that governs Jordan, the monarchy would most likely be toppled. Once then, a Jordanian – Palestinian alliance would be formed, rendering the strategic importance of the Jordan River valley to the Israelis irrelevant, and effectively terminating the 1994 Israeli – Jordanian Peace Treaty.
The Mountain area dominates the Israeli coast, only 10 miles from the Mediterranean Sea, and within sight of every single Israeli city, meaning that every single Israeli city is within range of enemy artillery, including Israel’s only civilian airport. On top of that, if the Palestinians ever decided to break a peace treaty with Israel, the 10-mile gap would mean that it would be impossible for Israel to defend their territory, allowing their country to be overrun in blitzkrieg fashion.
Because of both the strategic importance of the Jordan Valley and the Mountain range, Israel cannot accept an independent Palestinian State in the West Bank, and, for its own protection, must be allowed to annex it.
The Golan Heights presents a similar dilemma for the Israelis. The terrain of the Golan Heights enables any army to successfully invade Israel from this spot, and so Israel is to secure its territorial integrity, it must be allowed to annex the Golan Heights.
(Yes, I am aware that I had quoted this from a previous article of mine.)
All nations conduct foreign policy through the geographic circumstances they find themselves. While it is one thing to raise your fist in solidarity and say “we stand with powerless over the powerful” when it comes to domestic policy, when it comes to foreign policy and issues of conflict resolution, not only do you look like an ignorant dunce to people who study conflicts, you show a fundamental level of disrespect towards those who wish to study these conflicts and with those who work towards a lasting resolution. After all, what does BDS know of the Fatah – Hamas split? Any peace settlement cannot happen until Fatah and Hamas reconcile.
That brings up the third and final fundamental misunderstanding of geopolitics: All nations have geographic circumstances and are not fundamentally immune from geopolitical realms. Firegn policy must be centered around geopolitics first, and not some ideological movements. While it may be admirable to put human rights above all else, it is not practical, because, ultimately, nations don’t have permanent friends, only permanent interests.
Ever since the end of the First World War, the United States foreign policy has been dominated by the idea of Wilsonianism, or the idea of the United States should have a role in the world in pursuing liberal ideas of self – determination, free – market capitalism, and democratic values. This is in contrast to the realpolitik ideas of Nicolo Machiavelli, which can be summarized into four points:
- states are the central actors in international politics, rather than leaders or international organizations;
- the international political system is anarchic, as there is no supranational authority to enforce rules;
- states act in their rational self-interest within the international system; and
- states desire power to ensure self-preservation.
(Cited off of Wikipedia)
The Wilsonian approach, however noble it may be, is also a problem because it can be used by anyone to justify anything. To paraphrase Mark Lilla “Liberals will do well to remember that the Wilsonian arguments of promoting freedom and human rights was used to justify the invasion of Iraq. In this anti – imperialist era, those who play the Wilsonian game should be prepared to lose it.”
The left has its foreign policy gaps. And it needs to address these gaps in order to be seen as more viable to the affairs of global politics.