Morally feeble and indecisive: The crisis of the Free World is accelerating

Opinion: Recent criticism of Israel by UN officials reflects the moral rot within the organization as it fails to ensure peace or support Ukraine against Russia due to lacking political will and moral fortitude

Dan Zamansky|
The moral bankruptcy of Martin Griffiths, the United Nations under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, drew significant comment when he declared that Hamas is a “political movement”, rather than a terrorist group.
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What was not given the same attention, but should have been, is that in his interview with Sky News on February 14, the same man claimed that the situation in Gaza was worse than the horrors inflicted on Cambodia by Pol Pot’s genocidal Khmer Rouge in the 1970s.

A wide moral decay

Griffiths is not the only man associated with the UN to grossly misuse the memory of the Cambodian genocide. Hans Blix, who led the International Atomic Energy Agency for 16 years until 1997, and began the pattern of this agency’s repeated failures to halt nuclear proliferation, is another.
In his book, A Farewell to Arms: The Growing Restraints on the Interstate Use of Force, published a few short months ago, he correctly labels the Khmer Rouge regime as “blood-stained." Yet, he then proceeds to cite Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia to overthrow Pol Pot in 1979 not as a case of the justified destruction of an immensely evil regime, but rather as an instance that demonstrated the “firmness with which UN organs have applied the rule against the interstate use of force – including interventions."
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Pol Pot, a blood-stained regime
Pol Pot, a blood-stained regime
Pol Pot, a blood-stained regime
Equally incredibly, the second such example that Blix uses in this passage is the UN’s hostility to Israel’s famous rescue of Jewish and Israeli hostages at Entebbe in 1976.
Hans Blix and Martin Griffiths are just two of many men and women who care not about the substance, the rights of human beings to their lives and livelihoods, but the formal role of that most irresponsible and least moral of organizations – the United Nations.
Over its many decades of existence, the UN has acted not to establish and maintain international peace and security, but rather to undermine these at every turn, by giving legitimacy to any cause and any regime, no matter how criminal, which is willing to make use of the formal rules of the UN system.
A system headed by a Security Council which met five times in July 1976 to discuss the Entebbe raid as an “act of aggression”, and then failed to adopt a meek British resolution vaguely condemning aircraft hijackings. The same council still counts Russia among its members, even as Russia piles one war crime upon another in its invasion of Ukraine.
The results, the growing number and scale of wars worldwide, are everywhere to see. Yet, Hans Blix manages to write with boundless cynicism that the Ukraine war, the world’s most dangerous since 1945, “may well prove to be the last-ever war for territorial gain.” Quite the contrary, if the moral decay, of which the UN is the source, continues to spread widely throughout the Free World, wars of conquest will again become the norm.

Years of talking, rather than aiding Ukraine

In no instance is the inability of democracies to summon powers of morality and decision clearer than in the inconsistent and insufficient aid that has been given to Ukraine.
Almost two years into the war, NBC News has been anonymously informed that “the U.S. could include the long-range ATACMS” ballistic missiles in future aid, if Congress were to vote for more assistance to Ukraine. It is worth emphasizing how vague and non-committal this statement is. In that same story, NBC noted that Biden’s administration “has resisted” sending these missiles to Ukraine for the last two years.
The problem is therefore much less the fact that Congress is resistant to agreeing more funding, and much more the incapacity of Biden, and other Western leaders, to make the right decisions at the right time, and then implement them.
The essence of Ukraine’s problems in the war is rather simple. As succinctly summarized by Tim Lister for CNN, it is “the sheer mass of Russian forces, along with their aerial superiority."
The United States alone, not to mention all the other members of NATO, could have already remedied this problem if it possessed the will.
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the United Nations Economic and Social Council
the United Nations Economic and Social Council
United Nations, a 'moral decay'
(Photo: UN)
The latest edition of the Military Balance, an annual assessment of the world’s militaries, published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies earlier this month, records that the U.S. has the following enormous stocks of army equipment in storage:
  • 2,000 M1 Abrams tanks
  • 2,800 Bradley armored fighting and reconnaissance vehicles
  • 8,000 M113 armored personnel carriers
  • 1,000 M88 armored recovery vehicles
  • 850 M109 self-propelled howitzers
These equipment holdings, gathering dust at various storage facilities, are substantially larger than those of the entire IDF. Therefore, the U.S. has more than enough available army equipment to not only transform the position of the Ukrainian army, but also to reinforce Israeli forces. Fighter aircraft, which Ukraine desperately needs, are available, too.
As just two examples, Greece has 10 Dassault Mirage 2000 aircraft in storage, while Britain’s small Royal Air Force is storing 10 Eurofighter Typhoons. If the West had spent the last two years intensively training Ukrainian pilots, rather than plodding from one non-decision to the next, Ukraine would already be winning back control of the air.
Given that NATO's strength as a military alliance is rooted in the fact that it counts the world’s most advanced economies among its members, the upgrading of stored military equipment and the manufacture of new systems is not the problem. The critical deficit lies in the absence of political will, and of the motivation to put an end to the policy of paving the road to hell with good intentions.

A war of pretense against the Houthis

The same political feebleness is on display in Washington's non-war against the Houthis. The number of passages by ships through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, the southern entrance to the Red Sea, has fallen by 65% since the end of November, as reported by Reuters.
An immediate consequence of this is that Egypt’s revenues from traffic through the Suez Canal, at the sea’s northern entrance, have fallen by more than half. Egypt, with its enormous population and long-running economic difficulties, is falling deeper into crisis. The consequences of this, whether potential mass migration to Europe or the return to prominence of the Muslim Brotherhood, could make the West’s most urgent present problems much worse.
Not only has the U.S. failed both to attack the Houthis with decisive effect and to make any of its allies make a substantive and continuous contribution to this effort, but it has also demonstrated considerable military inefficiency.
The Houthis have now shot down a second expensive MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft since November, and have also damaged the Rubymar cargo ship so badly that it may sink. These are minor military successes, but the Houthis are a minor military force. If there had been an effective and purposeful Allied military response, this problem would already have been resolved.
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Houthi piracy in the Red Sea
Even U.S. military commanders, not to mention politicians, speak as if in a mental haze. America’s most senior military officer, General CQ Brown, Jr., rhetorically asked the Biden administration’s critics in late January, “Do you want us on a full-scale war?” Then, as so many Western generals of the present, he emphasized to ABC’s Martha Raddatz that “we don’t want to go down a path of greater escalation.”
The consequence of this muddled thought is full-scale failure to stop Houthi attacks, since the Houthis find the path of escalation a rather easy one to take against a flailing America.
The absence of any substantive plan to deal with the attacks from Yemen has other harmful consequences. The most important is that the U.S. Navy’s Eisenhower carrier strike group is operating with limited intelligence, little warning of incoming attacks and in a state of considerable stress, as can be read in Natasha Betrand’s report for CNN. This is the worst possible way to run a military force. The very purpose for which a military exists is to act with decisive force against armed enemies.
When a carrier strike group is directed not to destroy the enemy with massive strikes, but to conduct a series of severely constrained defensive and offensive actions, it can only decay and lose effectiveness. The U.S. Navy’s problem in recruiting personnel, already significant, can only worsen in this context. Few sailors will want to continue participating in a military pretense, or to join a Navy engaged in one.
Outside the military and outside the U.S., the Houthi attacks are giving energy to the worst impulses of international society. Stephen Cotton, General Secretary of the London-based International Transport Workers’ Federation, called for an immediate and permanent cease-fire in Gaza to guarantee safety in the Red Sea. In substance, this is a call to appease piracy and terrorism, and to feed Israel to the tiger.
The Houthis are naturally glad to act to further this process. In their latest attack, they picked the MSC Silver, a ship they labeled as Israeli. In fact, it is operated by the largest container shipping company in the world, based in Geneva, which of course sails to Israel, among many other countries.

Accelerating crisis, and Israel’s only choice

As in Ukraine, as in the Red Sea, the security crisis ever more closely enveloping the Free World is accelerating on Israel’s borders, too. More than 130 days into the war, the IDF has again reiterated the undeniable fact that the northern border areas are too dangerous for residents to return to them.
Meanwhile, in Gaza, the hunt for Yahya Sinwar appears to be making little progress and the tunnels connecting Hamas to Egypt remain open. The 31,000 targets attacked by the Air Force form an impressive total, but this statistic should not obscure the more important fact that Hamas is far from defeated and Hezbollah largely intact, while Israel has necessarily expended a considerable proportion of its pre-war munition stocks.
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Gaza's Hamas Chief Yehya Al-Sinwar talks to media, in Gaza City
Gaza's Hamas Chief Yehya Al-Sinwar talks to media, in Gaza City
IDF hunts for SInwar with 'little progress'
(Photo: Reuters)
The only choice that Israel has is to not to be like America. Israel spent decades giving the IDF far too elaborately specified and far too limited tasks, leading to exactly the same process of rot and loss of function that the Eisenhower and other U.S. ships are now experiencing.
Now, in the fifth month of a war that is far from a victorious conclusion, it is past time to give the IDF a clear and unambiguous task – to storm all areas of Gaza where Hamas is still present and to do so with overwhelming force, in order to annihilate Hamas in Gaza as soon as this can be done.
Israel, unlike America, borders Hamas and Hezbollah. Israel, unlike America, is neither the world’s richest country, nor one of the largest and most populous. Larger nations might still be in a position to wait to “behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives”, as Abba Eban put it. Israel, on the other hand, has no more time to do this.
If the IDF continues conducting limited, indecisive, operations of one kind or another for the next year or longer, Israel will very likely face the prospect of resource exhaustion and, therefore, of national collapse.
It is time to make decisions. First, to make the change from limited and slow operations in pursuit of limited objectives to faster operations intended to achieve decisive results. Second, Israel needs to greatly increase domestic production of weapons and ammunition. The U.S., which has drafted a contemptible UN resolution opposing an offensive on Rafah, an offensive which is an inescapable requirement for Israeli victory in Gaza, is far from wholly reliable.
The purchase of tens of thousands of Israeli-made rifles will help, but it does not address the critical needs. The IDF needs more Merkava tanks, Namer heavy armored personnel carriers and great quantities of bombs and shells.
Defeating enemies which hide in extensive tunnel networks and are largely indifferent to losses of their foot soldiers requires Israel to deploy overwhelming firepower, which must be provided by Israeli industry to the greatest possible extent.
  • Dan Zamansky is a British-Israeli independent historian and author of The New World Crisis, a Substack analysing the problems of today. His manuscript of this article may be found at Substack
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