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After President Obama's reelection, foreign policy watchers wondered aloud whether the White House – free of electoral concerns – would become a more engaged, more balanced player in (among other arenas) Middle East peace efforts.

This week, that question became immediate as Israel launched its expanding "Pillar of Defense" military campaign against Gaza. And the answer came quickly.

With rockets raining on Israel and missiles pummeling Gaza, the Obama administration's first responses indicated that, just as before, the U.S. would back Israel at the Palestinians' expense, forgoing even the appearance of a balanced approach. For initial statements showed full support for Israel's right to defend itself, and placed full culpability on Hamas to end the violence.

In fact, with Israeli tanks amassing along the border and reservists being called up for a possible ground campaign, White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes appeared to publicly green-light any Israeli military response when he said:

The Israelis are going to make decisions about their own military tactics and operations. What we want is the same thing the Israelis want, which is an end to the rocket fire coming out of Gaza.
However, President Obama yesterday seemed to hedge a bit on giving carte blanche to an Israeli ground invasion:
Israel has every right to expect that it does not have missiles fired into its territory...If that can be accomplished without a ramping up of military activity in Gaza, that's preferable.
The "ramping up" of which Obama spoke was an Israeli ground campaign, and while his words were publicly mild, reports are that the White House expressed more forcefull concerns behind closed doors.

So why would Obama and the White House express that Israel has the freedom to choose how it will respond to Hamas militarily when a full-scale bombing campaign was underway, but hedge now that a ground invasion appears possible?

Obviously, it has much to do with a fear of destabilization in a region that can ill-afford more. However, the Gaza bombing campaign itself, disproportionate being condemned both by regional and international players, has already created a regionally destabilizing force.

So why has Obama been unwilling to critique Israel's bombing campaign, which has inflicted untold civilian casualties in Gaza, particularly when President George W. Bush was quick to use harsh words in a similar situation in 2002 (in a post-9/11 America no less)?

One answer is America's drone program. While the Obama administration cannot be happy with developments between Israel and Gaza, it has also been unwilling to critique Israel's bombing campaign. Why? With America's drone program engaging in targeted assassinations in Pakistan and elsewhere, breaching the sovereign airspace of other nations to do so, the U.S. is in no place to critique Israel on its own bombing campaigns.

And this puts America in a bind, at least publicly.

Now, one might argue that Hamas, as a listed terror organization, is reason enough for America to hold off on critiquing Israel's bombing of Gaza. But if such were the case, there would be little reason to resist a ground campaign as well.

With civilian casualties mounting in both Gaza and Israel as the rockets and missiles continue to fall, Obama has held his tongue, because he must.

If Israel launches a ground offensive, however, this may change.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (15+ / 0-)

    I'm "THE" Troubadour," and not "Troubadour" without the article. We're different people here at DK :)

    by David Harris Gershon on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 04:47:32 AM PST

  •  If Obama must hold his tongue (as civillain... (5+ / 0-)

    casualties mount) for the reasons you have cited, all I can say is: That's a damn shame!

  •  Is there a difference (10+ / 0-)

    When we use a drone strike to attack a dwelling where we suspect one of the seemingly innumerable AQ 3#'s,
    and this?

    1201: The Israeli military has now told the BBC that it intended to hit a house in Gaza on Sunday in an air strike which killed 10 members of the Dalou family, including four children. A spokesperson said it believed a senior Hamas militant, Yahia Rabiya, was hiding there. But the Israeli military said it did not know if Mr Rabiya was actually in the house when it was bombed.
    BBC
    •  Not really (5+ / 0-)

      They're both war crimes.  Except, in this context, Israel's is in the more traditional definition of war.

      Let all the Bush tax cuts expire

      by Paleo on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 05:48:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Correct. one major difference is that as the (0+ / 0-)

      BBC quote shows, Israel fired without having any reason to know that their alleged target was in fact in the Dalou household. Their classical response to complaints about civilian deaths was that they were aiming at terrorists, and it was their own fault if other people were standing next to him. Here, they had no idea if he was there, and shot anyway. When often repeated as a targeting rule, as it has been, this is a material difference between Israel and Obama-In-Pakistan. There have been several articles about how it seems Israel has already fired on all the ammo dumps and Hamas staging sites already, and is now looking for the homes, and families, of government officials, and government offices and media offices which might spread the Hamas site, from their locations in Hamas, and if they hit civilians or media from other places, oh well. The apparent point being to eliminate the capacity of Gaza to have public order at any level.

      But you will notice the differentiation made by Obama as to ground actions. A very firm hint at how bad that would be for Israel to do.  Because do remember that the pledge is to defend Israel when it is self defending, not to support Israel in all of its military endeavors connected in some way or other to asserting and protecting Israel's exclusive ability to use force in that arena. A different matter entirely.

      And BIbi's response that he EXPECTS his allies to support him in this. A public test right after the election of the quality of Obama's support for Israel, embodied in BIbi himself and his more outrageous choices.

       Here it seems that Obama does not support "The Best Defense is a Good Offense" version of the pledge to defend and has now made that position publicly clear.

  •  Hmm, I'm surprised that a high ranking (8+ / 0-)

    US leader would be handcuffed by hypocrisy.  If that really is true, it must be an all time first.

  •  For every enemy leader killed in a drone attack... (13+ / 0-)

    ...with the usual civilian casualties, 100 new enemies are created.

    Pakistan is quickly becoming enemy territory. This BBC poll showing Pakistan as the country with least support for Obama is a data point.

    To target a bomb in Gaza or a drone in Pakistan or elsewhere the key is human intelligence on the ground and minimal or no civilian casualties.  Both of these are very difficult to achieve.  Fighting "terrorism" like this only creates more enemies. It may look good on paper but it is disastrous in the long run.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 05:06:31 AM PST

  •  I think you're overthinking this. (10+ / 0-)

    I find it inconceivable that the US would criticize Israeli's bombing of Gaza even if drones didn't exist.  

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 05:27:56 AM PST

  •  On Israel, Obama handcuffed (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Deep Texan, corvo, TheLizardKing

    Period.  Just leave it at that.

    Let all the Bush tax cuts expire

    by Paleo on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 05:35:01 AM PST

    •  The cease fire terms are being worked out (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      koNko

      With the expected hard- to-do terms, The US will be expected to  pressure Israel to back off their more extreme demands, and Turkey and Egypt will be expected to do the same with the Palestinians.  

      Will we step up?

  •  I suspect that in Pakistan and Afghanistan (10+ / 0-)

    The irony is painful....

    "No country on Earth would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens"
  •  I doubt Obama's response would be different (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Paleo, SaintC, corvo, doroma, koNko

    even if he wasn't using drones the way he is.

    "I smoke. If this bothers anyone, I suggest you look around at the world in which we live and shut your fuckin' mouth." --- Bill Hicks

    by voroki on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 05:41:25 AM PST

  •  I think the drones are only a small part (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Deep Texan, koNko

    of the equation. You've got a number of factors, not the least of which are Israel's status as the proverbial lone ally in the Middle East and the unsympathetic enemy they have in Hamas. Just those two factors alone make any potential US hardline toward Jerusalem entirely unpalatable politically.

    Unapologetic Obama supporter.

    by Red Sox on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 05:54:39 AM PST

  •  Did he even realize the irony (10+ / 0-)

    in his statements?

    Let's understand what the precipitating event here that's causing the current crisis and that was an ever-escalating number of missiles that were landing not just in Israeli territory but in areas that are populated, and there's no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders
    Really?  

    He just gave justification to the insurgents in all the countries in which our own missiles are raining down on their citizens.  

    It's getting harder and harder to maintain a logical narrative with the wars we are waging.

    Also, an article in the Atlantic disagrees with his analysis on what started this latest bloody mess between Israel and Gaza.  


    "Justice is a commodity"

    by joanneleon on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 05:56:48 AM PST

  •  Ariel Sharon's son weighs in (6+ / 0-)
    We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too.
    http://www.jpost.com/...

    That's this call for a massacre was published in the Jerusalem Post is telling.

    Let all the Bush tax cuts expire

    by Paleo on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 06:05:24 AM PST

  •  handcuffed by more than that (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    corvo, koNko

    i'm afraid.

    -You want to change the system, run for office.

    by Deep Texan on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 06:14:56 AM PST

  •  Our response would be the same regardless (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    charliehall2, gerrilea, VClib, koNko

    of the drone campaign.  There are also plenty of grounds to criticize an Israeli ground campaign (disproportionality, for example) that wouldn't necessarily implicate drones.  In fact, the reasons we'd criticize a ground campaign - that it creates too large a risk of civilian casualties and economic disruption - are precisely the reasons we favor drones and targeted strikes as a matter of policy.

  •  Fair enough, but let's not forget that (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gerrilea, koNko, Claudius Bombarnac

    Obama handcuffed himself.

    And even without the drones, he'd be supporting Israel 100%.  It's what Democrats do.  (Republicans as well, if for different reasons.)

  •  Obama isn't holding his tongue (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fou

    He is very clear about who is responsible for this war, and that Israel is right to defend itself. He reiterated this just yesterday:

    Let’s understand what the precipitating event here was that’s causing the current crisis, and that was an ever-escalating number of missiles; they were landing not just in Israeli territory, but in areas that are populated. And there’s no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders. So we are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes and workplaces and potentially killing civilians. And we will continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself.
    http://www.whitehouse.gov/...

    One reason I haven't been on Dailykos much is that I've been spending the past six months pushing back against the Republican Narrative that Obama is a Muslim Anti-Semite Marxist Israel-Hater Terrorist Supporter. You would not believe the amount and level of vitriol in the religious Jewish community that supported this narrative -- and it continued even after the election. This week has proven that I was right, and they were wrong.

    •  Yes it's very clear who's the responsible party (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Claudius Bombarnac

      http://www.juancole.com/...

      Israeli hawks represent themselves as engaged in a ‘peace process’ with the Palestinians in which Hamas refuses to join. In fact, Israel has refused to cease colonizing and stealing Palestinian land long enough to engage in fruitful negotiations with them. Tel Aviv routinely announces new, unilateral house-building on the Palestinian West Bank. There is no peace process. It is an Israeli and American sham. Talking about a peace process is giving cover to Israeli nationalists who are determined to grab everything the Palestinians have and reduce them to penniless refugees (again).

       . .  Actions such as the assault on Gaza can achieve no genuine long-term strategic purpose. They are being launched to ensure that Jewish-Israelis are the first to exploit key resources. Rattling sabers at the Palestinians creates a pretext for further land-grabs and colonies on Palestinian land. That is, the military action against the people of Gaza is a diversion tactic; the real goal is Greater Israel, an assertion of Israeli sovereignty over all the territory once held by the British Mandate of Palestine. . . .
        . . . Israeli hawks justify their aggression on the Palestinians on grounds of self-defense. But Israel is a country of 7.5 million people with tanks, armored vehicles, artillery, helicopter gunships and F-16s and F-18s, plus 400 nuclear warheads. Gaza is a small occupied territory of 1.7 million which has no heavy weaponry, just some old guns and some largely ineffectual rockets. (Israelis cite hundreds of rockets fired into Israel from Gaza in 2012; but until Israel’s recent attack they had killed not a single Israeli, though they did wound a few last March when fighting between Palestinians and Israelis escalated.) Gaza is a threat to Israel the way the Transkei Bantustan was a threat to Apartheid South Africa. As for genuine asymmetrical threats from Gaza to Israel, they could be dealt with by giving the Palestinians a state and ceasing the blockade imposed on them, or in the worst case scenario counter-terrorism targeted at terrorists rather than indiscriminate bombing campaigns. . . .

  •  I had exactly the same reaction (0+ / 0-)

    Major logical flaw. I could continue, but I think the rest is just as obvious.

    Sure hopes he sticks to the withdrawal schedule and seriously reconsiders the moral hazards of autonomous, semi-autonomous and remote controlled war toys, seems to be habit-forming.

    What about my Daughter's future?

    by koNko on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 08:26:58 AM PST

  •  I'm curious as to why people are so worked up (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roadbed Guy

    about drones.

    Drones have human operators.  They're just in remote locations.  They're not controlled by Skynet.

    Yes, they create civilian casualties, but they do so on a scale of Dresden, or Hiroshima?

    What is it about the weapon, the technology itself that has people so upset?

    Ceterum censeo Factionem Republicanam esse delendam.

    by journeyman on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 08:35:07 AM PST

    •  These are good points! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      journeyman

      Indeed, you almost convinced me that they're better than Dick Cheney's assassination squads.  Almost.

      And you probably would have if you had just added Tokyo & Nagasaki to your "scale of things" comparison!  

    •  They're pimply kids in Uncle's basement (0+ / 0-)

      racking up a high score playing video games where the people they shoot really die.

      They probably think it's "only" a game.

      You may think that. I couldn't possibly comment.-- Francis Urqhart

      by Johnny Q on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 02:48:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Most kids at war think its a game. (0+ / 0-)

        Until they're in it.

        The kids who bombed Dresden were just bombing buildings from 20,000 feet.

        The kids who bombed Tokyo were bombing buildings from 5,000 feet.

        This is what they did:

        McNamara himself was in his twenties.  LeMay was still in his thirties.

        It seems to me that an argument can be made that drones have made war less terrible.

        Ceterum censeo Factionem Republicanam esse delendam.

        by journeyman on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 04:03:59 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The fact that people can kill with impunity (0+ / 0-)

          does not make war less terrible.  It just protects the killers for ever facing the consequences of their actions.

          You may think that. I couldn't possibly comment.-- Francis Urqhart

          by Johnny Q on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 12:59:42 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  People have always killed with impunity. (0+ / 0-)

            ANY technological advantage gave them that ability.  And we have used it.  Horses, stirrups, chariots, steel, firearms, cruise missiles, atomic bombs, the modern nation state.  All of those things have given people the ability to kill with impunity.  All of them have been used to do so.  What makes drones so uniquely evil?  Especially if they have resulted in less, rather than more, as the military so euphemistically phrases it, collateral damage?

            If you are a pacifist, then just say so.

            Ceterum censeo Factionem Republicanam esse delendam.

            by journeyman on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 03:57:40 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  not really--US-Israel policy has been pretty (0+ / 0-)

    static over the years.  The drones don't really affect anything in the I/P equation.  Doubt our position would change.

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