There are problems in this world that have no easy fix, and the situation in the Middle East is one of them.
Listen To This Story
Few things can be said with certainty in the early days of the conflict between Israel and Hamas. One of them is that the wrong people will suffer the most. That was true when Hamas fighters killed, raped, kidnapped, and maimed hundreds of innocent civilians in its initial attack, and it will be true in the coming days when Israel retaliates.
Here is another thing that we know for sure: There is no solution to this crisis — certainly not a good one.
There are problems in this world that have no easy fix. In fact, most of the big ones don’t… or they hopefully would have been addressed already.
The situation in the Middle East is one of them. It has been centuries in the making, and there are so many stakeholders involved, some of whom have diametrically opposed objectives, that it would be impossible to make all of them — or even most of them — happy at the same time.
At best, the region has experienced times in which there was less conflict or something resembling a fragile balance. But even then, at every point, one or more of these stakeholders were plotting to upset that tenuous status quo.
It also hasn’t helped that outside interests — from European colonizers, oil companies, and US nation builders to modern-day autocrats — have pursued their own agendas with little concern for what happens to the people in the region.
For these reasons, it would be illusory to think that there are any simple solutions here. Whatever Israel does next will have far-reaching repercussions, as will the responses from Hamas, the Palestinian people, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and others countries in the region.
Right now, some stakeholders will be happy and feel as though they are “winning,” at least in this brief moment (for some of them see the Substack by WhoWhatWhy founder Russ Baker here).
Others will be the losers, which will force them to take actions that will once again have consequences they cannot possibly foresee.
For example, it certainly looks as though Israel will choose an “iron fist” approach to respond to the Hamas attack. Based on the magnitude of the atrocities that its people suffered and its current leaders, anything else would be shocking.
And, seeing how the attacks from this weekend cannot be undone, it might make Israelis feel good to hit back and kill as many Hamas fighters as possible.
In the short run, that’s a win. In the long-term, depending on how severe this retaliatory strike is, it probably won’t be.
Israel will lose some of the international support it currently enjoys and a new generation of terrorists who want to fight their “oppressors” will be created.
This doesn’t mean that Israel should do nothing. That kind of weakness might very well invite attacks from other stakeholders.
It is simply meant to illustrate that every action will have a reaction, and most of them will be bad.
Which brings us back to the original point: When you are dealing with a problem that has festered for decades or centuries, you can’t expect to fix it overnight or even in a lifetime.
Instead, any incremental improvement will require hard work and the buy-in from many of the stakeholders involved.
And those who don’t want to be helpful have to be marginalized.
Ideally, that is what would happen now. What Hamas did was so bad that it could serve as an inflection point, which, in the end, would lead to the terrorist organization being sidelined.
But that only works if the response isn’t too heavy-handed.
If those two things were to happen, something good could come out of these horrible attacks: a bit of progress.
If not, we’ll keep doing the same thing over and over again.