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Jul 29, 2014

Gaming Israel and Palestine

Gaming Israel and Palestine

By George Friedman
We have long argued that the Arab-Israeli conflict is inherently insoluble. Now, for the third time in recent years, a war is being fought in Gaza. The Palestinians are firing rockets into Israel with minimal effect. The Israelis are carrying out a broader operation to seal tunnels along the Gaza-Israel boundary. Like the previous wars, the current one will settle nothing. The Israelis want to destroy Hamas' rockets. They can do so only if they occupy Gaza and remain there for an extended period while engineers search for tunnels and bunkers throughout the territory. This would generate Israeli casualties from Hamas guerrillas fighting on their own turf with no room for retreat. So Hamas will continue to launch rockets, but between the extreme inaccuracy of the rockets and Israel's Iron Dome defense system, the group will inflict little damage to the Israelis.

War Without a Military Outcome

The most interesting aspect of this war is that both sides apparently found it necessary, despite knowing it would have no definitive military outcome. The kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers followed by the incineration of a Palestinian boy triggered this conflict. An argument of infinite regression always rages as to the original sin: Who committed the first crime?
For the Palestinians, the original crime was the migration into the Palestinian mandate by Jews, the creation of the State of Israel and the expulsion of Arabs from that state. For Israel, the original sin came after the 1967 war, during which Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. At that moment, the Israelis were prepared to discuss a deal, but the Arabs announced their famous "three nos" at a meeting in Khartoum: no negotiation, no recognition, no peace. That locked the Israelis into an increasingly rigid stance. Attempts at negotiations have followed the Khartoum declaration, all of which failed, and the "no recognition" and "no peace" agreement is largely intact. Cease-fires are the best that anyone can hope for.
For Hamas, at least -- and I suspect for many Palestinians in the West Bank -- the only solution is Israel's elimination. For many Israelis, the only solution is to continue to occupy all captured territories until the Palestinians commit to peace and recognition. Since the same Israelis do not believe that day will ever come, the occupation would become permanent.
Under these circumstances, the Gaza war is in some sense a matter of housekeeping. For Hamas, the point of the operation is demonstrating it can fire rockets at Israel. These rockets are inaccurate, but the important thing is that they were smuggled into Gaza at all, since this suggests more dangerous weapons eventually will be smuggled in to the Palestinian territory. At the same time, Hamas is demonstrating that it remains able to incur casualties while continuing to fight.
For the Israelis, the point of the operation is that they are willing to carry it out at all. The Israelis undoubtedly intend to punish Gaza, but they do not believe they can impose their will on Gaza and compel the Palestinians to reach a political accommodation with Israel. War's purpose is to impose your political will on your enemy. But unless the Israelis surprise us immensely, nothing decisive will come out of this conflict. Even if Israel somehow destroyed Hamas, another organization would emerge to fill its space in the Palestinian ecosystem. Israel can't go far enough to break the Palestinian will to resist; it is dependent on a major third-party state to help meet Israeli security needs. This creates an inherent contradiction whereby Israel receives enough American support to guarantee its existence but because of humanitarian concerns is not allowed to take the kind of decisive action that might solve its security problem.
We thus see periodic violence of various types, none of which will be intended or expected to achieve any significant political outcome. Wars here have become a series of bloodstained gestures. There are some limited ends to achieve, such as closing Palestinian tunnels and demonstrating Palestinian capabilities that force Israel into an expensive defensive posture. But Hamas will not be defeated, and Israel will make no concessions.

Sovereignty and Viability Problems

The question therefore is not what the point of all this is -- although that is a fascinating subject -- but where all this ends. All things human end. Previous longstanding conflicts, such as those between France and England, ended or at least changed shape. Israel and Palestine accordingly will resolve their conflict in due course.
Many believe the creation of a Palestinian state will be the solution, and those who believe this often have trouble understanding why this self-evidently sensible solution has not been implemented. The reason is the proposed solution is not nearly as sensible as it might appear to some.
Issues of viability and sovereignty surround any discussion of a Palestinian state. Geography raises questions about the viability of any Palestinian polity. Palestine has two population centers, Gaza and the West Bank, which are detached from one another. One population center, Gaza, is an enormously crowded, narrow salient. Its ability to develop a sustainable economy is limited. The West Bank has more possibilities, but even it would be subordinate to a dynamic Israel. If the Palestinian workforce is drawn into the Israeli economy, both territories will become adjuncts to Israel. Within its current borders, a viable Palestine is impossible to imagine.
From the Israeli point of view, creating a Palestine along something resembling the 1967 lines (leaving aside the question of Jerusalem) would give the Palestinians superb targets, namely, Tel Aviv and Haifa. Given its history, Israel is unlikely to take that risk unless it had the right to oversee security in the West Bank in some way. That in turn would undermine Palestinian sovereignty.
As you play out the possibilities in any two-state solution, you run into the problem that any solution one side demanded would be unbearable to the other. Geography simply won't permit two sovereign states. In this sense, the extremists on both sides are more realistic than the moderates. But that reality encounters other problems.

Israel's High-Water Mark

Currently, Israel is as secure as it is ever likely to be unless Hamas disappears, never to be replaced, and the West Bank becomes even more accommodating to Israel. Neither of these prospects is likely. Israel's economy towers over its neighbors. The Palestinians are weak and divided. None of Israel's neighbors pose any threat of invasion, a situation in place since the 1977 neutralization of Egypt. Jordan is locked into a close relation with Israel, Egypt has its peace treaty and Hezbollah is bogged down in Syria. Apart from Gaza, which is a relatively minor threat, Israel's position is difficult to improve.
Israel can't radically shift its demography. But several evolutions in the region could move against Israel. Egypt could change governments, renounce its treaty, rearm and re-enter the Sinai Peninsula. Hezbollah could use its experience in Syria to open a front in Lebanon. Syria could get an Islamic State-led government and threaten the Golan Heights. Islamists could overthrow Jordan's Hashemite monarchy and pose a threat to the east. Turkey could evolve into a radical Islamic government and send forces to challenge Israel. A cultural revolution could take place in the Arab world that would challenge Israel's economic superiority, and therefore its ability to wage war. Iran could smuggle missiles into Gaza, and so on.
There is accordingly an asymmetry of possibilities. It is difficult to imagine any evolution, technical, political or economic, that would materially improve Israel's already dominant position, but there are many things that could weaken Israel -- some substantially. Each may appear far-fetched at the moment, but everything in the future seems far-fetched. None is inconceivable.
It is a rule of politics and business to bargain from strength. Israel is now as strong as it is going to be. But Israel does not think that it can reach an accommodation with the Palestinians that would guarantee Israeli national security, a view based on a realistic reading of geography. Therefore, Israel sees little purpose in making concessions to the Palestinians despite its relative position of strength.
In these circumstances, the Israeli strategy is to maintain its power at a maximum level and use what influence it has to prevent the emergence of new threats. From this perspective, the Israeli strategy on settlements makes sense. If there will be no talks, and Israel must maintain its overwhelming advantage, creating strategic depth in the West Bank is sensible; it would be less sensible if there were a possibility of a peace treaty. Israel must also inflict a temporary defeat on any actively hostile Palestinian force from time to time to set them back several years and to demonstrate Israeli capabilities for psychological purposes.
The Palestinian position meanwhile must be to maintain its political cohesion and wait, using its position to try to drive wedges between Israel and its foreign patrons, particularly the United States, but understanding that the only change in the status quo will come from changes outside the Israeli-Palestinian complex. The primary Palestinian problem will be to maintain itself as a distinct entity with sufficient power to resist an Israeli assault for some time. Any peace treaty would weaken the Palestinians by pulling them into the Israeli orbit and splitting them up. By refusing a peace treaty, they remain distinct, if divided. That guarantees they will be there when circumstances change.

Fifty Years Out

Israel's major problem is that circumstances always change. Predicting the military capabilities of the Arab and Islamic worlds in 50 years is difficult. Most likely, they will not be weaker than they are today, and a strong argument can be made that at least several of their constituents will be stronger. If in 50 years some or all assume a hostile posture against Israel, Israel will be in trouble.
Time is not on Israel's side. At some point, something will likely happen to weaken its position, while it is unlikely that anything will happen to strengthen its position. That normally would be an argument for entering negotiations, but the Palestinians will not negotiate a deal that would leave them weak and divided, and any deal that Israel could live with would do just that.
What we are seeing in Gaza is merely housekeeping, that is, each side trying to maintain its position. The Palestinians need to maintain solidarity for the long haul. The Israelis need to hold their strategic superiority as long as they can. But nothing lasts forever, and over time, the relative strength of Israel will decline. Meanwhile, the relative strength of the Palestinians may increase, though this isn't certain.
Looking at the relative risks, making a high-risk deal with the Palestinians would seem prudent in the long run. But nations do not make decisions on such abstract calculations. Israel will bet on its ability to stay strong. From a political standpoint, it has no choice. The Palestinians will bet on the long game. They have no choice. And in the meantime, blood will periodically flow.

Jul 14, 2014

Gaza Situation Report

Gaza Situation Report 

"Gaza Situation Report is republished with permission of Stratfor."

By George Friedman
The current confrontation in Gaza began June 12 after three Israeli teenagers disappeared in the West Bank the month before. Israel announced the disappearance June 13, shortly thereafter placing blame on Hamas for the kidnappings. On June 14, Hamas fired three rockets into the Hof Ashkelon region. This was followed by Israeli attacks on Palestinians in the Jerusalem region. On July 8, the Israelis announced Operation Protective Edge and began calling up reservists. Hamas launched a longer-range rocket at Tel Aviv. Israel then increased its airstrikes against targets in Gaza.

At this point, it would appear that Israel has deployed sufficient force to be ready to conduct an incursion into Gaza. However, Israel has not done so yet. The conflict has consisted of airstrikes and some special operations forces raids by Israel and rocket launches by Hamas against targets in Israel.

From a purely military standpoint, the issue has been Hamas's search for a deterrent to Israeli operations against Gaza. Operation Cast Lead in late 2008 and early 2009 disrupted Gaza deeply, and Hamas found itself without any options beyond attempts to impose high casualties on Israeli forces. But the size of the casualties in Cast Lead did not prove a deterrent. 

Hamas augmented its short-range rocket arsenal with much longer-range rockets. The latest generation of rockets it has acquired can reach the population center of Israel: the triangle of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. However, these are rockets, not missiles. That means they have no guidance system, and their point of impact once launched is a matter of chance. Given these limits, Hamas hoped having a large number of rockets of different ranges would create the risk of substantial Israeli civilian casualties, and that that risk would deter Israel from action against Gaza.

The threat posed by the rockets was in fact substantial. According to senior Israeli Air Force officers quoted on the subject, Israel lacked intelligence on precisely where the rockets were stored and all the sites from which they might be launched. Gaza is honeycombed with a complex of tunnels, many quite deep. This limits intelligence. It also limits the ability of Israeli airborne munitions from penetrating to their storage area and destroying them. 

The Israeli objective is to destroy Hamas' rocket capacity. Israel ideally would like to do this from the air, but while some can be destroyed from the air, and from special operations, it appears the Israelis lack the ability to eliminate the threat. The only solution would be a large-scale assault on Gaza designed to occupy it such that a full-scale search for the weapons and their destruction on the ground would be possible. 

Hamas has been firing rockets to convince the Israelis that they have enough to increase casualties in the triangle if they choose to. The Israelis must in fact assume that an assault on Gaza would in its earliest stages result in a massive barrage, especially since Hamas would be in a "use-it-or-lose-it" position. Hamas hopes this will deter an Israeli attack.

Thus far, Israel has restrained its attack beyond airstrikes. The extent to which the fear of massed rocketry was the constraining factor is not clear. Certainly, the Israelis are concerned that Hamas is better prepared for an attack than it was during Cast Lead, and that its ability to use anti-tank missiles against Israel's Merkava tanks and improvised explosive devices against infantry has evolved. Moreover, the occupation of Gaza would be costly and complex. It would take perhaps weeks to search for rockets and in that time, Israeli casualties would mount. When the political consequences, particularly in Europe, of such an attack were added to this calculus, the ground component of Protective Edge was put off.

As mentioned, a major issue for the Israelis is the intelligence factor. It is said that Iran provided Hamas with these rockets via smuggling routes through Sudan. It is hard to imagine the route these weapons would take such that Israeli (and American) intelligence would not detect them on their thousand-plus mile transit, and that they would move into Gaza in spite of Israeli and Egyptian hostile watchfulness. Even if Iran didn't provide the weapons, and someone else did, the same question would arise.

The failure of the Israelis to detect and interdict the movement of rockets or rocket parts has an immediate effect on the confidence with which senior Israeli commanders and political leaders calculate their course. Therefore, to this point, there has been a stalemate, with what we assume is a small fraction of Hamas' rockets being fired, and limited operations against Gaza. The ground operation is being held in check for now.

While there have been a few public attempts to mediate between Hamas and Israel, most of these efforts have been lackluster, and the condemnations of violence and calls for peace have been more perfunctory than usual. Rather than leaving Egypt as the principle mediator, Turkey and Qatar have also weighed into the cease-fire discussion.  U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also reportedly contacted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, offering assistance in mediating a truce. Meanwhile, high-ranking diplomats from the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany discussed truce efforts on the sidelines of talks on Iran, and Israel’s government has began mulling a plan to offer development aid in exchange for a demilitarization of Gaza.

There is good reason for the slow pace of these cease-fire efforts, however. As evidenced by Hamas' ability to replenish its rocket supply through routes traversing Sinai, Israel cannot rely exclusively on Egypt to uphold a cease-fire agreement -- nor does it trust Qatar and Turkey to do so. Instead, Israel is attempting to place responsibility for cease-fire enforcement on its main external patron, the United States. Of equal importance, Hamas shares a deep distrust of the current regime in Egypt, given Hamas' past links to the Muslim Brotherhood, whose brief reign in Egypt ended with a military coup. As these negotiations move slowly forward, Israel's focus is on trying to degrade Hamas' military capabilities enough to compensate for the weaknesses implicit in any cease-fire agreement. But tackling the problem primarily through the air has limits, and Israel's questionable confidence in its own intelligence is what has prevented a ground incursion so far.

The problem for Israel in any cease-fire is that it would keep the current status quo in place. Hamas would retain its rockets, and might be able to attain more advanced models. Israel was not able to stop the influx of this load, so Israel can't be confident that it can stop the next. A cease-fire is a victory for Hamas because they have retained their rocket force and have the potential to increase it. But for Israel, if it assumes that it cannot absorb the cost of rooting out all of the rockets (assuming that is possible) then a cease-fire brings it some political benefits without having to take too many risks.

At this moment, we know for certain that Israel is bombing Gaza and has amassed a force sufficient to initiate ground operations but has not done so. Hamas has not fired a saturation attack, assuming it could, but has forced Israel to assume that such an attack is possible, and that its Iron Dome defensive system would be overwhelmed by the numbers. The next move is Israel's. We can assume there are those in the Israeli command authority arguing that the Gaza rockets will be fired at some point, and must be eliminated now, and others arguing that without better intelligence the likelihood of casualties and of triggering a saturation launch is too high. 

We have no idea who will win the argument, if there is one, but right now, Israel is holding.

Jul 9, 2014

The Inevitability of Foreign Entanglements

The Inevitability of Foreign Entanglements 

 "The Inevitability of Foreign Entanglements is republished with permission of Stratfor."

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By George Friedman
The Fourth of July weekend gave me time to consider events in Iraq and Ukraine, U.S.-German relations and the Mexican borderland and immigration. I did so in the context of the founding of the United States, asking myself if America has strayed from the founders' intent with regard to foreign policy. Many people note Thomas Jefferson's warning that the United States should pursue "peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations -- entangling alliances with none," taking that as the defining strategy of the founders. I think it is better to say that was the defining wish of the founders but not one that they practiced to extremes.
As we know, U.S. President Barack Obama has said he wants to decrease U.S. entanglements in the world. Ironically, many on the right want to do the same. There is a common longing for an America that takes advantage of its distance from the rest of the world to avoid excessive involvement in the outside world. Whether Jefferson's wish can constitute a strategy for the United States today is a worthy question for a July 4, but there is a more profound issue: Did his wish ever constitute American strategy?

Entangled in Foreign Affairs at Birth

The United States was born out of a deep entanglement in international affairs, extracting its independence via the founders' astute exploitation of the tensions between Britain and France. Britain had recently won the Seven Years' War with France, known as the French and Indian War in the colonies, where then-Col. George Washington led forces from Virginia. The British victory didn't end hostilities with France, which provided weapons, ammunition and other supplies to the American Revolutionaries. On occasion, France landed troops in support of American forces, and its navy served a decisive role in securing the final U.S. victory at Yorktown.
America's geopolitical position required that it continue to position itself in terms of this European struggle. The United States depended on trade with Europe, and particularly Britain. Revolution did not change the mutual dependence of the United States and Britain. The French Revolution of 1789, however, posed a deep dilemma for the United States. That later revolution was anti-monarchist and republican, appearing to share the values of the United States.
This forced the United States into a dilemma it has continued to face ever since. Morally, the United States appeared obligated to support France and its revolution. But as mentioned, economically, it depended on trade with the British. The Jeffersonian Democrats wanted to support the French. The Federalist Party, cautious of British naval power and aware of American dependence on trade, supported an alignment with Britain. Amid much tension, vituperation and intrigue, the United States ultimately aligned with its previous enemy, Britain.
When Jefferson was elected president in 1800, he did not reverse U.S. policy. By then, the French Revolution had grown vicious, and Napoleon had come to power in 1799. Besides, Jefferson knew as well as Washington had that the United States required trade relations with Britain. At the same time, Jefferson was more aware than others that the United States was a narrow strip of land between the Atlantic and Appalachians. With minimal north-south transportation and dependence on the sea, the United States needed strategic depth.
The conflict between France and Britain was intensifying once again, and by 1803, Napoleon was planning an invasion of Britain. Napoleon's finances were in shambles, a fact Jefferson took advantage of to solve America's strategic problem: He negotiated the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France. Although this strengthened France against Britain, Jefferson was confident that the British would not be sufficiently displeased to break off trade relations.
Jefferson thus used the Franco-British conflict to take control of the continent to the Rocky Mountains, gaining control of the Missouri-Mississippi river complex, which would serve as the highway for Midwestern agricultural products to Europe. The Federalists condemned him for violating the Constitution by not obtaining prior congressional authorization. He probably did just that, but either way he had managed to expel the French from North America and achieve strategic depth for the United States, all without triggering a crisis with Britain. For a man who didn't care for entanglements, it was a tangled, but brilliant, achievement.
Moreover, Jefferson waged two Middle Eastern wars against what were then called the Barbary pirates. He was actually waging war against the Ottoman Empire, and in particular, the Barbary States, which comprised the Ottoman provinces of Tripoli, Algiers and Tunis and the independent state of Morocco. They had claimed the right to regulate commerce in the region, seizing ships flying flags that hadn't made treaties with them and holding the crews for ransom. The Americans had been protected before independence because they had treaties with Britain, but the treaties did not apply to the independent United States. Rather than negotiate a treaty, Jefferson chose to go to war, fighting on the same Libyan soil that is so discussed today: The Marines' Hymn, which references the shores of Tripoli, is talking about Benghazi, among other places.
The geopolitical reality was that the United States could not maintain its economy on domestic trade alone. It had to trade, and to trade it had to have access to the North Atlantic. Without that access it would fall into a depression. The idea that there would be no entangling alliances was nice in theory. But in reality, in order to trade, it had to align with the dominant naval power in the Atlantic, namely, the British. Self-sufficiency was a fantasy, and avoiding entanglement was impossible.

The War of 1812 and the Monroe Doctrine

All of this culminated in the War of 1812. By then, the Napoleonic wars were raging, and the British were hard-pressed to maintain their blockade of the European continent for lack of manpower. Its interest in blockading Napoleon led London to try to prevent the United States from trading with anyone but Britain. The British lack of manpower led London to order the seizure of U.S. ships and the impressment of British-born sailors into the Royal Navy. The British were also allied with Indian tribes to the west, which could have led to a reversal of the achievements of the Louisiana Purchase.
The British were not particularly interested in the Americans. Instead, it was their obsession with the French that led them to restrain trade and impress seaman. Their policy of allying with the Indians and expanding Canadian power was, however, a residual result of their distrust of the United States, and it could well have become a major focus of their follow-on strategy after the defeat of Napoleon.
The United States could not tolerate having the British control trade routes in the North Atlantic. Nor could it live with the British maneuvers in North America. Regardless of desires for peace with everyone and the avoidance of war, the United States accordingly declared war on Britain. Although the war resulted in the burning of Washington, the ultimate strategic outcome of the war is generally regarded as satisfactory to the United States. The British stopped threatening the Midwest from Canada, ended impressment (having defeated Napoleon, they didn't need it anyway) and returned to a distrustful but amicable trade relationship with the United States.
This account wouldn't be complete if I didn't mention the Monroe Doctrine, issued in 1823 with the goal of regulating the extent to which European powers could be involved in the Americas. Originally considered a joint U.S.-British document, the United States ultimately decided to announce the principles itself. (It wasn't called the Monroe Doctrine until much later.) Interestingly, the United States was in no position to enforce the doctrine; it could do so only in cooperation with Britain. Yet even so it asserted its unwillingness to allow European powers to intrude in the Western Hemisphere.

A History of Inevitable Alignments

Where Jefferson spoke of entangling alliances, it might be said that no alliances were signed, but alignment was pursued. From the beginning of the American project, entanglement in Europe was inevitable. The republic was born from that entanglement and survived because of the skill and cunning with which the founders managed their entanglement. What is important for today is that economic self-sufficiency was a dream of the founders, albeit one they could never achieve. They had to have trade, and from the beginning, trade brought conflict and war.
In his farewell address, frequently cited as an argument for avoiding foreign adventures, George Washington had a much more complex and sophisticated approach than Jefferson's one-liner did (and Jefferson himself was far more sophisticated than that one-liner). It is worth extracting one section:
"Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.
Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government, the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.
…Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies."
Washington noted that American distance gave it the hope that "the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance." For him, this was a goal, not a reality. But he could not make it a reality because the United States was economically entangled with Europe from the start, and its geography, rather than protecting it from entanglement, forced it into trade, which had to be protected against pirates and potentates. As a result, the United States was fighting in the Middle East by the turn of the 19th century.
It is important to distinguish what the founders wished from what they did. Unlike the French Revolutionaries, who took the revolution to its bloody reduction ad absurdum, the Americans had modest expectations for their revolution: They wished for a time when they weren't drawn into conflict. But as we have seen, they were neither surprised nor reticent when conflict proved necessary. It was Jefferson, after all, who led the country to its first Middle Eastern adventure.
For me, the crucial line from Washington is the search for the time "…when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel."
It's not clear that that time has come or that it will come. What undermined the peace Washington and Jefferson craved was the need for trade. It made the United States, weak as it was, vulnerable to Britain and France and even the Ottomans and forced the United States to engage in the very activity Washington and Jefferson warned against. Indeed, Washington and Jefferson were forced to engage in that activity. The United States is much more powerful today, and its gross domestic product constitutes more than 20 percent of the GDP in the world. The vastness of the American economy causes it to intrude everywhere, and American interests and foreign resentment constantly create threats and challenges.
The desire of the president, the left and the right to limit our engagement is understandable. The founders wanted their prosperity without paying the price of foreign entanglements, but prosperity depended on careful management of foreign relations. Today the vulnerabilities of the United States are much more subtle and complex, but the principle remains the same. You cannot be economically entangled in the world without also being politically and militarily entangled. What you can do is what Washington and Jefferson did: have a clear sense of the national interest and justice and avoid all entanglements but those that are necessary against this measure. Unfortunately, the national interest and justice are not always easily defined, and it is harder still to reach a consensus on what is to be done.
The idea of withdrawing from the world is appealing to any reasonable person. But Washington and Jefferson couldn't do it even though they extolled it. It is unlikely that it can be achieved today. The best we can do is to be ruthless in deciding which entanglements are valuable and which will drain us.
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