By Gabriel Teitelbaum
Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own.
“In view of the nature of this undeniable threat, it can be asserted, properly and categorically, that the United States has no right or reason to encourage talk of peace, until the day shall come when there is a clear intention on the part of the aggressor nations to abandon all thought of dominating or conquering the world.” -- President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
To understand October 7 and its great significance, a reflection and application of history is critical. October 7, which saw a Hamas combined arms operation and terrorist attack that killed about 1,200 people, is a day that will forever be part of the Israeli national consciousness. That day and February 24, the day Russia launched its maximalist invasion of Ukraine, make the years of 2022 and 2023 reminiscent of another dark time in history. At the end of 1940, President Franklin Roosevelt provided a stirring warning to the American people about the threat of the Axis Powers. 1940 was the year that France fell to Nazi Germany and was betrayed by Marshal Philippe Pétain and Pierre Laval, both of whom were monumental figures in French politics and society. In his speech, Roosevelt had alerted the people about the presence of Axis-aligned operatives in the United States who were ready to emulate their French counterparts.
Meanwhile, Nazi Germany was planning and implementing its New Order (Neuordnung). The New Order was both a geopolitical and ideological concept. It complimented Nazism’s demand for racial purity and totalitarianism; it had also sought to replace the Franco-British world order that had dawned after the First World War, along with the institutions that defined this order: The Versailles Treaty, global trade, and the League of Nations, to name a few. This scorn for international institutions spread like wildfire to other disillusioned states, particularly the losers of World War One. Hungary craved to cast off the shackles of the Treaty of Trianon. Bulgaria desired vengeance after the Treaty of Neuilly. Italy and Japan, believing that they were not properly compensated for their support of the Allies, would sympathize with Nazi Germany’s grievances. This dissatisfaction correlated with a rejection of democratic politics and liberal ideology. The members of the Axis viewed liberal democracy as a constraining force imposed on them by the Franco-British world order–merely an extension of Western influence.
Along with analysis, this article will argue that this is not true and will attempt to convince readers to understand the importance of defending liberal democracy in Israel and Ukraine before it is too late. Liberalism on a domestic level represents an organic will to freedom in the political and economic spheres. Internationally, liberalism, embodied by the Liberal International Order (LIO), is the structure that ensures that you go to bed safe each night, as it ideally deters war-making. The LIO is a myriad of institutions that alter state behavior. Some of these institutions include the European Union, NATO, the United Nations, and all its subsidiary organizations. Recent history demonstrates how vital the LIO is to American national security. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the LIO had become a truly global phenomenon, no longer being trapped within one bloc. Not only did this fact make the United States wealthier than ever, but it was also more secure. Rather than conquest, states looked to trade and cooperation. While there were occasional mischief-makers--such as Saddam Hussein–vast coalitions, backed by the UN, NATO, or both, reigned in several dictators before they could accumulate power to the point of jeopardizing American security.
February 24, 2022, the day Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and October 7, 2023, the day Hamas invaded Israel, both represent a critical juncture not only for Israel and Ukraine, but for the world. While most analysts and journalists understandably focus on the threat posed by domestic extremists to American national security, October 7 ought to convince every American that this nation has never been in such danger from foreign powers and organizations since the conquests of the Axis Powers. These threats are interconnected, with a loud and well-funded fifth column seeking to mislead Americans into supporting our enemies. Yes, I am referring to particular members of Congress parroting Hamas’s goal of exterminating the State of Israel and the Jews, Christians, homosexuals, atheists, Druze, and Arabs within it. I am also referring to Tucker Carlson’s insidious support of Putinism and Eurasianism. Republican candidate Vivek Ramaswamy’s agenda to allow the People’s Republic of China to go after the people of Taiwan without consequence fits the bill too. These expressions all serve one purpose: to paralyze the United States while the world order it had created and preserved is dismantled.
What do the dictators and their supporters wish to replace the LIO with? It has differences with Hitler’s New Order, yet is fundamentally the same. They want a world where an oligarchic elite controls its resources. Democracy facilitates economic pluralism and upward mobility, both of which are threats to traditionally entrenched elites. The leaders in Gaza and the Kremlin will never allow for democracy, not only for ideological purposes, but to prevent the people of Gaza and Russia from accessing wealth. Hamas and Putin are also driven to support multipolarity. Without the United States and NATO enforcing the United Nations’ vision of peaceful conflict resolution, states will be free to conquer as they please. Furthermore, without American and allied support for human and civil rights, Russia and Hamas will feel even more at ease to target their own populations. Hamas has yet again embraced the tactic of employing human shields to create a crisis of distinction for Israeli forces, infamously placing a command and control center in a civilian hospital. Essentially, Russia and Hamas, along with several of their own allies, are conspiring to bring about a multipolar world in which democracy and liberal norms are trampled upon in the name of Westphalian sovereignty.
The conquest of Ukraine and the annihilation of Israel are just the first items on the lists of Hamas and Russia. The former is nothing but a tool of the Islamic Republic of Iran to carry out its ideological goal of exterminating Israel and conquering the Middle East. Because of former President Barack Obama’s unwillingness to oust Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, Iran and Russia have firmly entrenched their influence in Syria. Iraq, which is engaged in the slow but worthy process of democratization, is hounded by Iranian-backed militias and political extremists. Iran is also backing the Houthis in Yemen, who have attacked Israel, Saudi Arabia, and American forces. They are also supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon, a group that has essentially conquered the beleaguered country. Drawing all of this on a map produces the Shia Crescent. The Shia Crescent is a geopolitical notion in which Iran exploits its good ties with Syria and Lebanon, as well as its proxies in Iraq to simultaneously challenge the regional dominance of Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United States, while deterring any attack against Iran itself. Once this crescent is complete and solidified, there is little doubt that Iran will go further. It may attack Saudi Arabia or the America-aligned Gulf States. A potential casus belli (justification for war) is their tolerance for Israel. Saudi Arabia and, even more so, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, both signatories of the Abraham Accords, have seen a diplomatic thaw in their relationship with Israel, which has resulted in economic, military, and cultural exchanges. Should this first step of Iranian conquest succeed, it may use Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza to form a corridor by which it could directly invade Israel with land forces; Iran, while it has not made good on this threat yet, warned that it would use its own military forces to attack Israel from Syria. The fall, or at least severe isolation of Saudi Arabia would surely follow. Anyone interested in a democratic, secular Middle East where the rights of minorities and women are respected should be determined to counter Iran’s machinations. This is but one argument in favor of Israel annihilating Hamas politically and militarily. Contrary to Marxists and Islamist groups, who are currently in an unholy alliance, Hamas is not a band of joyful freedom fighters; they are part of an empire that seeks to subjugate a whole region.
The latter, Russia, has made no secret of its alignment with Iran and its pawn, Hamas. It is delighted at the prospect of a West with a divided attention, both politically and militarily. To achieve its end of the New World Order, it has embraced Eurasianism. The Kremlin’s goal is the restoration of Russian control over what was once the Russian Empire. It is worth noting that Russia today is an anachronistic empire, filled with oppressed minorities such as the Ingush people and the Chechens. While all other European nations have relinquished their empires, Russia has refused to do so.
The bloc that Iran, Russia, and China represent will also be termed the New Order, as its goal is fundamentally similar to the Axis one. It is not merely a geopolitical concept designed to dismantle American global dominance. Contrary to Chinese propaganda, which states that this contest is not ideological, the New World Order seeks the dominance of authoritarianism and totalitarianism; this requires the containment of liberal democracy. It is liberal democracy that is “infringing on the sovereign right” of Hamas to murder Jews and of Russia to subjugate Ukrainians, Moldovans, and Georgians.
The above map reflects the utter danger the world finds itself in. The nations colored in dark blue represent those consistently upholding the values and institutions of the LIO, mostly in action. Black represents those attempting to replace the LIO in favor of a multipolar system in which conquest and corruption are rampant and ubiquitous. They show extremely close signs of cooperation. Finally, stripes represent a contested zone, with the body color representing what that country leans more toward. What the map also shows is that Iran-Israel ties are further intensified by this global conflict.
The map serves as clarifying because it demonstrates the nexus between the war being waged against Israel and Ukraine. In fact, it is the same war. Israel and Ukraine are both outposts of liberal internationalism in hostile zones. Ukraine has staunchly supported Israel because it realizes that if Israel vanquishes Hamas, it serves as a victory against Iran, which has provided weapons and other support to Russia. Israel has welcomed this support because, if Ukraine defeats Russia, Iran will be able to sell less of its equipment to the latter. There may also be a potential for regime change, which could cost Iran and Syria an ally. This realization that has likely occurred to most Israelis reveals the folly of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s past actions. While Israel passively supported Ukraine by allowing the United States to tap into its stockpile, Netanyahu attempted to appease Putin by not giving Ukraine Israeli-designed and produced weapons. We have now seen how Russia has compensated Israel for its appeasement: it openly engages with the genocidal Hamas. The false promise of appeasement has resulted in many dead Americans as well. An alternative to appeasement is vital for the national security of the United States and its two stalwart allies.
The actions (or lack thereof) of former Presidents Obama and Trump encouraged dictators at every turn. Whether it was the lack of significant punishment for the illegal annexation of Crimea, or Trump’s outright support for tyrants such as Kim Jong Un, American national security suffered. President Biden has presciently sought a course correction. In a recent speech, he proclaimed, in the vein of FDR, that America must be the “arsenal of democracy.” President Biden understands that unimpeded conquest will inevitably threaten America directly. If Eurasia was unified under an authoritarian order, the United States would be at great risk of an imposed isolation and perhaps even direct attack.
Even then, arming Israel and Ukraine is not enough. The United States must take great initiative in actively delivering defeats against the New Order, paving the way for a total victory. We, the United States, and our allies must expand our own influence by force if necessary. There is much to learn from Israel’s assertive, decisive response to previous attacks. Furthermore, after winning, they established conditions by which future aggression was prevented or made more difficult (e.g., using the Sinai Peninsula as leverage for a peace with Egypt that exists to this day). Such decisiveness is the only way to deter Russia and China and to prevent a global conflict. Before even considering this, however, the United States must make several reforms including:
Decoupling from China. Strategically, China uses the resources accrued to develop its own technology. It also gives them the finances to buy Russian oil. Russia then uses that money to buy Chinese military hardware.
Re-industrialization. Completely restructure the industrial base to make thousands, if not millions, of weapon types in a single year. Shipbuilding should be emphasized; defending the global commons is vital to upholding the LIO. The United States should be ready at all times to fight on two major fronts simultaneously while supporting dozens of allies with materiel.
Cultural and legal reform. American culture and tolerance for treason must change. Isolationism has always been a self-defeating attitude that has constrained American power to the benefit of our enemies. A culture of treason has also festered, as seen in protests in support of Hamas and major political figures promoting Putinism. Defensive Democracy is a tool that our Founding Fathers turned to when Jacobin and British influence in the United States endangered its sovereignty. It was also employed during the two world wars to protect Americans from enemy propaganda and other forms of social engineering. It is time to implement it again. Support for authoritarian regimes is antithetical to American interests and puts our democratic existence in peril The Party for Socialism and Liberation and similar entities should be declared as terrorist organizations, given their open support of Hamas.
Spartan Democracy/Democratic Militarism. Finally, most aspects of life in democratic states should focus on the defense of our institutions and pluralistic cultures. Whether it is Israel, Ukraine, or the United States, children from a young age should be taught of the dangers of political extremism, populism, and authoritarianism. Failure to do so has given us Donald Trump and the Likud party, which left Israel open to attack in return for cynical political maneuvering. The question that must be posed to liberals, conservatives, social democrats, progressives, and unaligned democracy supporters is this: are you just as or more ready to fight back against your enemies? If not, it is time for all these groups to overcome self-doubt and unite.
What is being advocated for is a form of contingent sovereignty that is codified within the LIO. This would enable the United States and its allies to directly intervene in the defense of Israel and Ukraine, as well as states not part of the LIO that are experiencing genocide or invasion. Liberal contingent sovereignty can very well be the best rebuke against the multipolar purgatory that Russia and China want to establish. The LIO has constrained its own power for too long, desperately hoping to appease expansionist dictatorships and bloodthirsty terrorist groups. It is time for those days to end and for America, Israel, and Ukraine to stand triumphant against the New Order.
Gabriel "Gabe" Teitelbaum is a junior at American University who studies in the School of International Service with a focus on National Security. Outside of his academic work, Gabe has worked for Representative Andy Kim's Congressional Office in D.C. and is Secretary of Students Supporting Ukraine, a club at AU. He has also written for Penn Political Review. In his free time, Gabe enjoys reading about military history, among other subjects. He hopes to fight for democracy in word and deed.