Commentary Magazine


Europe’s Vital Interests

Meanwhile, back at the Guardian, Timothy Garton Ash deplores Europe’s inability to act forcefully and effectively in the Gaza crisis. His analysis is as correct and compelling when it comes to Europe’s divisions as it is wrong about what Europe’s goals should be:

The Gaza war is a negation of every principle for which Europe claims to stand. It directly affects our vital interests, not least because the latest round of Palestinian suffering (compounded by the Palestinians’ own divided and irresponsible leadership) will further inflame the anger of Muslims living in Europe.

This is Europe’s commentariat at its best (that is, worst): Garton Ash does not mention Iran even once in his article, and understands the Gaza crisis only in domestic terms. Fortunately Europe, divisions or not, is working to further its vital interests for once–at least by default and momentarily, through its failure to act according to Garton Ash’s will. By delaying any effective action in imposing a ceasefire on Israel, Europe is giving Israel more time to finish Hamas off–something that is in Europe’s ultimate interest as well.

Why does this serve Europe’s interest?There are many reasons. First, Europe has designated Hamas as a terrorist organization and it can hardly object to a terrorist organization being weakened. Second, Hamas is a significant obstacle to a peaceful settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, a settlement which Europe believes is possible and vital.

Why saving Hamas from disgrace is a vital interest of Europe escapes me–unless one sees bringing the end of human suffering among Palestinian civilians to be “a vital interest” of Europe (but what about the suffering of Israeli civilians? And what if ending one means causing the other?). I can easily see why that should be a worthy goal and a commendable cause, but a “vital interest”? Europe lets hundreds of thousands of people suffer and die across the world without doing much–where’s Europe’s intervention in Zimbabwe, where an unchecked humanitarian crisis makes Gaza look like a Club Med?

Third, and most importantly, since Hamas has become a wholly owned Iranian franchise, and it is in Europe’s vital interest to contain Iran’s imperial ambitions in the Middle East and thwart its nuclear goals, it is in Europe’s interest to see that Iran’s proxies get a rough beating.  So Garton Ash should welcome Europe’s inability to stop Israel before it has achieved its military goals. The Israelis’ failure to deal Hamas a decisive blow would spell more problems for Europe. And European interference in the Gaza operation would do a disservice to Europe’s true vital interests.