The Jewish say in the issues behind the Republicans' plans to fight global terrorism
Part 3 of a 3-part series
The Republican Party’s candidates for the 2016 presidential race have, since the Paris terror attacks on Nov. 13, 2015, and the San Bernardino terror attack on Dec. 2, 2015, placed an increasing emphasis on their proposed measures aimed at increasing America’s national security. These proposals range from the intense to the laughable and, to some, the intensely laughable.
Regarding the Islamic State (ISIS) group, an increasing threat to the West, multiple candidates support a ground operation in the Middle East against ISIS, while others support the less involved option of increased airstrikes in the Middle East against the group. The proposed ground operation, repeatedly presented by underdog candidate Lindsey Graham as unavoidable, includes thousands of American soldiers fighting in an anti-ISIS coalition comprised primarily of Arabs.
Domestically, dealing with undocumented immigration is continuously framed in terms of national security by the candidates; others point out the problem from the Islamist radicalization of legal American citizens and suggest that focusing on “illegals” is misguided. Another domestically oriented national security issue is gun control, as some suggest that ease of access to firearms has fueled both domestic terrorism and overall domestic gun violence.
As occasionally referenced by some of the candidates, Israel and the Jews have an important contribution to the question of forming national security policy. This contribution centers on the question of protecting the rights and way of life of the innocent in the midst of anti-terror measures. The Jewish experience lends to security policy drawing both from the perspective of theoretical experience, in terms of Jewish values, and in the practical experience acquired during the continued development of the State of Israel.
On the question of military engagement with ISIS, Israeli policy and Jewish values avoids death at all costs, while, when being so confronted, choosing the death of less and others over the death of more or oneself. That said, self-defense against ISIS is perfectly acceptable in the Jewish framework, but retaliation is distinct and is not acceptable. Measures like the bombing of Dresden, Germany, during World War II that simply inflict damage on civilians are not acceptable.
Therefore, while taking all precautions to protect innocent life, there is in Judaism no hesitation about self-defense. If civilians are in proximity to the target than that is unfortunate, but it is not a reason to put one’s life in danger by a lack of response. Answering a question at the Dec. 15 GOP Debate on potential non-American civilian casualties in an anti-ISIS campaign, Dr. Ben Carson answered to the same effect as discussed here, saying that as president of the United States his first responsibility is to protect American lives rather than lives of non-Americans abroad.
As to domestic issues, Israel legally respects every person and does nothing of the sort like Donald Trump has suggested in his proposed ban on all foreign Muslims entering the United States. As other candidates proposed to counter Trump’s suggestions, Israel follows a focused approach that only targets those confirmed as or suspected of participating in terror related activities.
On gun control, as is reported by the University of Sydney’s GunPolicy.org, Israel does not guarantee the right to own a firearm as is the case in the United States under the second amendment. As is additionally worth noting, the overall rate of gun deaths in the United States is approximately five times higher than it is in Israel.
Some strange remarks have come out of the candidates’ references to an Israeli and/or Jewish intellectual contribution to American security policy. At the Dec. 3, 2015, Republican Jewish Coalition’s 2016 Presidential Candidate Forum, Ohio Governor John Kasich spoke about the need for America to adopt the Jewish value of living for “others outside of yourself,” as he put it. The problem with Kasich’s remark is that living for others outside of yourself is less of a Jewish value than living for yourself. The Jewish experience places primary importance on the life of each individual person in the here and now. Helping others only comes after helping yourself and your own family, such as in the tradition that giving to your family should be done before giving to those not in your family.
The Republican candidates continue to grow their campaign focus on national security, maintaining the general idea that, as candidate Rick Santorum noted at the Dec. 15 debate, the world is at the beginning World War III. With such an understanding and with the election of one of the so-called “moderate candidates”—these being Senators Rubio and Cruz, and Carson—the practical and security alignment with Israel and what Israel stands for will likely continue to grow.
Caleb R. Newton is a global affairs analyst living in Central Florida. Find him at the Times of Israel, Dissecting Society, and Global News Breakdown.