News that the U.S. will build a “temporary pier” in the Mediterranean Sea to facilitate transfer of humanitarian aid to the Hamas-occupied Gaza Strip should tickle the déjà vu receptors of anyone who was politically aware at the dawn of the 21st century.

After the worst terrorist attack against the U.S. in its 225-year history on September 11, 2001, “the world” reacted sympathetically at first. But it didn’t last long. After the worst terrorist attack against Israel in its 75-year history on October 7, 2023, the world’s sympathy was as ephemeral as an Ivy League “pro-Palestine” hunger strike.

The U.S. and Israel were consoled and pitied – until they fought back. Then they were suddenly portrayed as aggressive colonizing villains, each seeking to impose its version of “empire” on an oppressed “other” while meting out “collective punishment.”

Nous sommes tous Américains” (“We Are All Americans”), said the French paper Le Monde on September 12, 2001. Parisians brought flowers to the U.S. embassy and sang the “Star Spangled Banner” outside Notre Dame Cathedral. One week later, French president Jacques Chirac became the first foreign leader to visit Ground Zero, where he said, “Today it is New York that was tragically struck, but tomorrow it may be Paris, Berlin, London.”

But soon, the French turned on the U.S. and began to urge restraint. The sick weak world loves it when the strong are hurt, and the smug Chirac surely felt a sense of satisfaction when the world’s lone super-power, which he liked to call a “hyper-power,” suffered. Schadenfreude is not an exclusively German phenomenon. Chirac mocked the Bush administration’s “Global War on Terror” and fought at the U.N. to keep Saddam Hussein in power, partly to protect the billions of dollars rolling into BNP Paribas, the one French bank handling all transactions from the “Oil for Food Program.”

After October 7, the sick, weak antisemitic countries showed their usual glee over Israel’s suffering. Unalloyed contempt from Iran, Iraq, Qatar, and Syria, whose leaders blamed Israel for the Hamas pogrom, was predictable. Kuwait, a relative newcomer to the Palestinian cause, excused the October 7 attack as “a result of the continued violations and blatant attacks committed by the Israeli occupation authorities against the brotherly Palestinian people.” Saudi Arabia worried that the attack would jeopardize the “two-state solution” it had been urging as part of a contemplated deal that would see Riyadh join the Abraham Accords.

From non-Muslim countries, Israel received only a fraction of the sympathetic fellowship showered on the U.S. after 9/11, and the blowback came even quicker as the Jewish state went on the offensive against Hamas.

In European displays of sympathy, the Israeli flag was projected onto the Brandenburg Gate in Germany, the Berlaymontin Brussels, and the EU Parliament Building in Strasbourg. The Eiffel Tower was lit up in blue and white and the Star of David, but soon France and the rest of Europe were demanding that Israel stop fighting and accept a ceasefire that everyone knew would allow Hamas to regroup and rebuild. Four weeks later, French President Emmanuel Macron was criticizing Israel: “These babies, these ladies, these old people are bombed and killed,” he told the BBC, adding “there is no reason for that and no legitimacy. So we do urge Israel to stop.”

Early on Joe Biden expressed support, promising that the U.S. would “not ever fail to have [Israel’s] back,” but soon became critical, urging “restraint,” cautioning against “indiscriminate” bombing, and criticizing Israel’s conduct as “over the top.” When he rightly said that no one should believe Hamas’s statistics on casualties and deaths, the fringes of his party attacked him, so he apologized for telling the truth and promised “to do better.” Fearing that the Muslim population in swing states like Michigan might abandon him, he quickly turned against Israel, publicly supporting its right to defend itself while also urging restraint, but privately calling Israeli PM Netanyahu an “asshole,” and a “f-cking bad guy” and demanding of him a “come to Jesus moment.” He sent out his people to dictate Israel’s conduct of the war. His Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, wrote to Israeli PM Netanyahu listing “a number of steps that the United States believes must be taken, including reinstating work permits for Palestinians and reducing barriers to commerce within the West Bank.”

Unique among nations, only the U.S. and Israel will simultaneously fight our enemies and feed their children. After the Bush administration’s declaration of a “Global War on Terrorism,” preparations to root out and destroy Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan began. But the U.S. fought the world’s first politically-correct war, dropping leaflets explaining that only Al-Qaeda and the Taliban would be targeted. Then the U.S. dropped tons of food and other humanitarian supplies on Afghanistan long before dropping a single bomb or putting a single “boot on the ground.” But even that was not enough for critics of the “American Empire.”

After Israel declared war against Hamas, it decided to continue providing Gazans with electricity, potable water, and medicine even as Hamas held Israelis (and Americans) hostage. Anyone who ridicules the claim that the IDF is the most moral army in the world is not paying attention to how it has prioritized the safety of Gazans over the safety of its own soldiers. As former Labor Party Knesset member and IDF intelligence officer Einat Wilf points out, “Israel has actually put its own soldiers at risk in order to ensure the ability of numerous civilians to evacuate to safety.”

After 9/11, the U.S. attempted to win the “hearts and minds” of both the people who harbored Al-Qaeda and tolerated the Taliban and the “international community.” We spent years walking the tightrope between dismantling and building a nation, between executing battles and peace-keeping missions. Sometimes the line between the two was hopelessly blurred.

The Bush administration sought to demonstrate its good intentions by “spreading democracy” to Afghanistan. In Kabul from June 11 to June 19, 2002, a loya Jirga (Pashtun for “grand assembly”) was held. Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the U.N., put it together, and it was presided over by Zahir Shah, the former King of Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai was selected as the new leader of post-Taliban Afghanistan. The U.S. was back in the nation-building business.

After 10/7, Israel dropped leaflets warning civilians in Gaza of impending combat and “established safe corridors” for them to escape the fighting. (No such safe corridors were afforded to the free-spirits at Nova music festival to escape death by rape.) Israel even continued providing electricity and water to its enemy after a brief cessation. It has also allowed medicine and food to enter Gaza. And it has been steadily pushed, especially by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, to recognize a Palestinian state – effectively rewarding Hamas for its assault on October 7.

Ultimately, the U.S. project in Afghanistan must be judged a failure. Democracy could not take root in the tribal, Islamist setting. A Pashtun Thomas Jefferson did not spring from the soil to promote the inalienable rights of all Afghans. Today, the Taliban is back in control, and Afghanistan is again a failed-state, safe harbor for terrorist organizations. The engineers of that failure are now urging Israel to replicate the failure in Gaza.

In December, Biden sent Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to advise Jerusalem how to “wind down” operations, as if the guy who oversaw the U.S. “wind down” of operations in Afghanistan is qualified to advise anyone on how to succeed militarily.

At a press conference following the meetings, Austin claimed both that the U.S. would “continue to stand up for Israel’s bedrock right to defend itself,” while also reminding Israel that the U.S. would “continue to urge the protection of civilians during conflict and to increase the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza.”

Citing “the clear principles laid down last month by my friend, Secretary Blinken,” Austin pushed the two-state chimera, arguing that “it is in the interest of both Israelis and Palestinians to move forward toward two states, living side by side in mutual security.”

With the Biden administration pushing Israel to replicate the U.S.’s failed Afghan war strategy in Gaza, how soon till Antony Blinken announces a U.S.-led, U.N.-supervised “loya Jirga” in Gaza?

This article was published at The Investigative Project on Terrorism

The views expressed in guest columns are not necessarily the views or positions of the CCNS or its members.

© 2024 Citizens Commission on National Security

© 2024 Citizens Commission on National Security