Mises Wire

Get the US Out of the Middle East

The ongoing conflict between the state of Israel and Hamas escalated considerably on Saturday. A group of armed fighters—presumably of Hamas—broke through the Gaza-Israel border barrier and launched what is sure to be a short-lived invasion of southwestern Israel. 

At least 700 Israeli citizens—most of them apparently civilians—were killed, and more than one hundred were taken hostage. The Israeli state quickly retaliated with widespread bombing of neighborhoods in Gaza producing hundreds killed, and possibly hundreds of thousands displaced. 

Within hours of the initial invasion, images of Hamas kidnappings and killings quickly flooded social media provoking calls for further retaliation by the Israeli state. On the other side, images of Israeli bombings of civilian neighborhoods has brought calls for additional action against Israel. Saturday's escalation has also revived hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel along Lebanon's southern border.

This has all happened in spite of decades of US intervention and spending in favor of Tel Aviv. Yet, this ongoing conflict has nothing at all to do with the safety and security of the United States itself, and Saturday's bloodshed should be an indication that the United States government is already far too involved in the region and ought to get out. 

It is already clear, however, that the invasion will be used to push the US regime toward more military spending, more war, and more global interventionism. The war party will use the same playbook that we saw for Ukraine: "look at the horrible atrocities committed by these barbarians. Surely, we must go to war to defeat this evil—regardless of whether it has anything to do with defending our own country." It's a grift Washington has been using for more than a century even though "humanitarian" wars are a myth

Conservatives for Middle Eastern Wars

Surprisingly, however, many Trump supporters didn't fall for it in the case of Ukraine. But now we're hearing calls from MAGA country to expand US military action in the Middle East as a result of the Hamas invasion. Victor Davis Hanson—a Trump supporter and one of the most fanatical pushers of the failed US war in Iraq—demanded on Saturday that the US regime "undertake a 1973-like massive arms lift of key munitions to Israel" and should "warn Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and others in the Middle East not to intervene or else." To include that "or else," of course, is to commit the US to yet another series of wars. Some other Trump supporters also see an opportunity here to revive aggressive measures toward Iran. Former Trump advisor Stephen Miller wants more sanctions against Iran, and condemns the Biden Administration for being slow to pull the trigger on aggressive new measures. Anti-Trump conservatives, unsurprisingly, are using the Hamas invasion to push their own variety of international aggression as well. Mike Pence now says the Hamas attack occurred because Trump was not belligerent enough in his foreign policy. Nikki Haley clearly thinks there is never too much foreign intervention by Washington and she suggested that the Hamas attack shows Iran may attempt to attack the United States from Mexico.

The pro-Israel center-left wants in on the action as well. "United Against Nuclear Iran," a group led by former US Senator Joseph Lieberman, calls for full-blown war against Iran, stating “We call on our government in Washington, together with Israel, and our allies around the world to launch strikes against military and intelligence targets in Iran, including Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) sites, and missile and drone bases." 

Saturday's escalation is in many ways a godsend to advocates of the American warfare state. Hamas's invasion provides new opportunities to convince Americans that the US needs to expand its many foreign policy commitments in the name of "democracy" or human rights. The war in Ukraine may not have captured the support of many American conservatives and Republicans, but experience suggests that such people can be far more easily whipped into a frenzy against the regime's official Islamic enemies. 

Never mind, of course, the fact that neither Hamas nor Hezbollah present any significant threat to the United States at all. In fact, Israel doesn't face any existential threat from Hamas or Hezbollah, either. Israel has an air force with the most advanced technology. Hamas has no air force at all. Israel has one of the best-trained, best-armed militaries in the world—much of it paid for by US tax dollars. Israel, of course, has a nuclear arsenal, and probably even a nuclear triad. Moreover, even if Iran were able to acquire nuclear arms, the realities of mutually assured destruction would still apply. Israel's nuclear delivery systems are far superior to anything Iran can hope to field. 

Hamas' Saturday invasion is likely to leave Gaza and Hamas devastated and in a far worse position than they were in on Saturday morning. By the time Israel is done with Gaza, casualties—civilian and otherwise—are likely to number in the tens of thousands. Gaza's housing and infrastructure will be all but destroyed. The success of Hamas' Saturday invasion doesn't illustrate any sizable strength on the part of Hamas. The success of the invasion only suggests incompetence on the part of Israeli intelligence—in a manner reminiscent of the CIA's abject failure on 9/11

And yet, we're being told that the United States must inject itself even more into this conflict and court open warfare with Iran, a country that also poses no threat to the United States. 

Decades of US Meddling 

Unfortunately, the US has no plans to leave the region, and it is absurd to claim—as Pence does—that the United States has somehow "withdrawn." The US recently renewed a commitment to provide Israel with military aid—totaling more than forty billion over the next five years. The US has been in some state of conflict with Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. The US has informally provided defense guarantees to Saudi Arabia in an effort to safeguard the petrodollar and counterbalance Saudi Arabia's traditional regional enemy Iran. US military bases dot the Middle Eastern landscape across Jordan, Iraq, Bahrain, Qatar, and others. 

None of these bases serve to protect America's borders from attack. If anything, the heavy-handed American presence in the region serves to motivate militants and terrorists to attack Americans who come to be viewed as occupiers and collaborators with various hated regimes in the region. The bases may be a boon for the military industrial complex, but they provide no benefit for the average taxpayer who must foot the bill—and who becomes a potential target as a result of US meddling in the region. 

If the safety, security, and property of Americans were actually a priority of American policymakers, Washington would be working to make Mike Pence's worst nightmare come true: getting the US out of the Middle East.

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