Why America cares about Israel’s security
Destruction of the Palestine Tower in Gaza following an Israeli airstrike, October 2023

Why America cares about Israel’s security

As Israel continues the arduous, necessary work of uprooting the machinery, infrastructure and high command of Hamas – with U.S. military assets and aid backing Israel’s efforts – some are wondering about America’s role, challenging America’s support for Israel, and asking the age-old question that arises every time faraway crises rouse America’s attention: “Why should we care?”

It’s a fair question, and there’s a good answer.

Security First and foremost, America’s security is linked to Israel’s security.

Israel is America’s only democratic ally in a dangerous neighborhood and strategically important part of the world. Israel is home to a key U.S. missile-defense base, stands as America’s closest partner in missile-defense development, and serves as an important ally in containing Iran and stunting Iran’s outlaw nuclear-weapons program. As President Ronald Reagan observed, Israel is “an integral part of the free world … Both a secure state of Israel and a stable Mideast peace are essential to our national interests.”

Even if Hamas on Oct. 7 had limited its attacks to Israeli citizens, America – as civilization’s first responder and last line of defense – would have been obliged to “care” and to respond. But the reality – overlooked by too many – is that Oct. 7 is not just the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust, not just the worst terrorist attack in Israel’s history, but also ranks among the worst terrorist attacks against America. On Oct. 7, Hamas hordes murdered 33 Americans and took captive another 13 Americans. That alone provides a thundering answer to the “Why should we care?” question.

And as the history books remind us, that alone has often been enough to trigger and justify U.S. military intervention: Consider America’s response to the kidnapping of Ion Perdicaris in 1904, the military operation to free the hostages held by Iran in 1980, the rationale for the U.S. invasion of Grenada in 1983, the hunt for the Achille Lauro terrorists in 1985, the unleashing of U.S. commandoes to rescue Americans held hostage by jihadists, pirates and terrorists throughout the 2000s – and to eliminate many of those enemies.

Moreover, Israel was midwifed into existence in 1948 thanks in no small measure to American resolve and leadership. Ever since, the United States has backstopped Israel’s security in times of crisis (especially in 1973, 2012 and 2023). If Hamas and its patrons in Tehran were to have their way, Israel would be erased. Not only would that be a crime against humanity; to sit on the sidelines while Israel is mutilated and murdered would render America’s word meaningless and undermine America’s security commitments around the world. America’s alliances are not compartmentalized, but rather an interconnected web of relationships. As President Joe Biden noted after the Hamas massacre, “We know that our allies and, maybe most importantly, our adversaries and competitors are watching.”

Those adversaries – tyrant regimes such as China and Russia, terrorist tyrannies such as Iran and North Korea, stateless terror groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis and al-Qaida – are taking deadly aim at the free world.

Hamas vows to “obliterate” democratic Israel. Toward that end, a thousand Hamas terrorists laid siege to Israel on Oct. 7. Similarly, Hezbollah, which bombards Israeli civilians with rocket and mortar attacks, envisions taking over Israel. Yemen-based Houthi rebels have attacked Israel and U.S. Navy vessels.

Russia arms Hezbollah, is trying to erase democratic Ukraine, occupies parts of democratic Georgia, and props up tyrants in Syria, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

China ships Russia dual-use drones to wage war against democratic Ukraine, runs interference for Hamas in cyberspace and in diplomatic circles, threatens to seize democratic Taiwan, uses military exercises to effectively blockade democratic Taiwan, has attacked democratic India, bullies the Philippines democracy, bolsters North Korea’s Stalinist regime, and keeps Tehran’s tyranny afloat with massive lifelines of credit

Iran uses some of that credit to bankroll Hamas and Hezbollah, arms militia that attack U.S. facilities, targets U.S. personnel and bases, harbors al-Qaida’s leader, and equips Russia with kamikaze drones that are being used against democratic Ukraine.

North Korea, too, is sending arms to help Russia wage an unprovoked war of aggression against democratic Ukraine. North Korean weapons have found their way to Hamas. And Pyongyang is helping Tehran expand its missile capabilities.

See a pattern? As Secretary of State Antony Blinken observes, “For our adversaries, be they states or non-states, this is all one fight.” 

America and the rest of the free world must see the situation in the same light.

Humanity Hamas ordered its henchmen to “achieve the highest level of human losses” and “kill as many individuals as possible.” Hamas invaders intentionally targeted elementary schools, burned people alive, raped women, bludgeoned parents in front of their children, executed and dismembered babies, carried out unspeakable torture, dragged innocents into captivity, and used Israeli and Palestinian civilians as human shields.

These are “crimes against humanity,” an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) general observes, “not just Israel’s problem.”

Indeed, our humanity demands our involvement and our support for the victims. If America responds and  cares about the world only when our interests are affected, we cease to be America. (The noble cause of Palestinian statehood isn’t synonymous with the vile Hamas cause of destroying Israel. Recognizing that, too, is part of our humanity.)

The notion that, once upon a time, America disregarded humanitarian concerns and focused solely on self-interest is fiction. Responding to Spain’s brutal mistreatment of the Cuban people, President William McKinley in 1898 called on Congress “in the cause of humanity … to put an end to the barbarities, bloodshed, starvation and horrible miseries.” In stinging words that are as apt today as then, he argued, “It is no answer to say this is all in another country, belonging to another nation, and is therefore none of our business,” adding that “the large dictates of humanity” compel action.

Following McKinley’s lead, President Theodore Roosevelt argued against “cold-blooded indifference to the misery of the oppressed.” Even when “our own interests are not greatly involved,” he declared, there are times to act “in the interest of humanity at large.”

The McKinley-Roosevelt era is not an aberration. Of the 300-plus U.S. military interventions since 1798, at least 35 fall under the umbrella of humanitarian intervention. The Berlin Airlift was a humanitarian mission, as was the operation to protect Iraq’s Kurds after the Gulf War, as was the operation to protect food deliveries in Somalia, as was the intervention to bring an end to ethno-religious warfare in the Balkans. The list goes on and on: helping Indonesia (2004) and Japan (1923 and 2011) after biblical-scale disasters, preventing Muammar Qaddafi from exterminating his subjects, rescuing Iraq’s Yazidis from the Islamic State (ISIS). Many of these had strategic as well as humanitarian implications. The Berlin Airlift rescued a city from starvation and tyranny – and dealt a humiliating blow to Stalin. Helping the Kurds limited Saddam Hussein’s reach – and forged what’s now a decades-old military partnership. Ending Slobodan Milosevic’s campaign of ethnic cleansing saved lives – and stabilized NATO’s doorstep.

Stability Speaking of stability, Hamas, Hezbollah and their puppet masters in Tehran are sources of violent instability. That instability undermines U.S. interests.

History teaches that securing U.S. interests – one of which is undeniably maintaining some semblance of global stability – doesn’t happen without effort. It requires America and its allies projecting power into dangerous neighborhoods, defending borders and the principle of sovereignty, promoting norms of behavior, ensuring freedom of the seas, and fighting terrorism and piracy.

By moving U.S. military assets into the region after Oct. 7, rushing military assistance to Israel and supporting Israel’s inherent right to self-defense, the United States is not only promoting regional and international stability. It is smothering a wider war and preventing a tinderbox from igniting. In 2023, as in 1973, that is very much in the interests of the United States – and the interests of all people of goodwill.

Published reports indicate Washington “has sent … messages to Hezbollah and Iran through third parties, warning them not to intervene.” Those messages have been reinforced by U.S. military muscle:

- Literally within hours of the Iran-backed Hamas siege of Israel, Washington sent the USS Gerald R. Ford carrier strike group to the Eastern Mediterranean. Another carrier strike group led by the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower joined the Ford flotilla, before steaming through the Suez Canal and the Red Sea to focus on waters closer to Iran. British, French and Italian ships have joined the U.S. deterrence armada.

- Washington dispatched amphibious assault and docking ships USS Bataan, USS Mesa Verde and USS Carter Hall – along with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit – to the region.

- Washington sent the 6th Fleet’s command-and-control ship USS Mount Whitney to the region. Underscoring America’s readiness for further escalation on the part of the Iran-Hamas-Hezbollah-Houthi axis, the Pentagon let it be known that Vice Adm. Thomas Ishee, commander of the 6th Fleet, is aboard Mount Whitney. Translation: In the event of additional U.S. intervention, there will be a steel-strong chain of command. (The phrase “additional U.S. intervention” is used because U.S. assets have already engaged the enemy. Operating somewhere in the Red Sea, USS Carney intercepted missiles targeting Israel fired by Iranian-backed Houthi forces.) 

- The Pentagon dispatched a team of military advisers led by Marine Corps Lt. Gen. James Glynn (who fought in Fallujah and later commanded special-operations units in the anti-ISIS to assist the IDF. And Washington rushed Joint Direct Attack Munitions, 155mm artillery rounds, missile-intercept systems and other ammunition to the IDF, with $14.3 billion more in military aid on the way.

- The Pentagon deployed an undisclosed number of F-15E fighter-bombers, A-10 ground-attack bombers and F-16 fighter-bombers to undisclosed bases in the Middle East.

- The Pentagon announced that an Ohio-class submarine armed with 154 land-attack cruise missiles recently arrived in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. Rarely does the Navy publicize the movement of its submarines. But when this one surfaced in Iran’s neighborhood, the Pentagon released a photo and delivered a not-so-subtle signal to Iran: Don’t try to escalate this any further.

The president ordered America’s military to carry out these tasks in the wake of Oct. 7 not to wage war or bomb our enemies or go looking for problems, but rather to contain a war, to deter our enemies and to address a problem before it exploded into something far worse. America’s military has been playing this stabilizing role for many decades – in West Berlin and South Korea, in Kosovo and Kuwait, in Eastern Europe and the South China Sea, in the autumn of 1973 and the autumn of 2023.