There are moments of sorrow in everyone’s life that provide a certain clarity to what we believe is important and meaningful: the death of one’s parent, or the loss of a child, a friend taken too soon. Nothing is more profound or more personal.
There are also moments of great tragedy so appalling in scope, so terrible in deed that the personal becomes the public — a shared grief and anger that erases borders and brings the world closer. A time when people put aside their own grievances and disappointments in the face of overwhelming evidence that the battle between good and evil is not an academic debate but a grim reality that played out in real time on 9/11 and now in the border towns and cities of Israel.
The scale of Saturday’s terrorist attack on the innocent people of Israel exposed a strain of depravity that has shocked the world. It has been gut-wrenching to see blurred camera shots of blood-stained rooms and bodies where, just hours before, Israeli families lived and loved each other, celebrated birthdays and told stories to children now gone.
Most people find themselves asking, what kind of person goes from house to house shooting and killing children and their families and seniors in wheelchairs and massacring young people who were threatening no one? Videos, many boldly posted to social media by the terrorists themselves, reveal a sickness that is still difficult to comprehend for most people.
While there have been terrible war crimes in Ukraine as Vladimir Putin has targeted civilians and the Russian armies have gone on rampages murdering civilians, last weekend’s violent attacks were driven by a hate not seen since the Holocaust. It’s clear. Hamas and its Iranian bosses want the total destruction of Israel and the annihilation of the Jewish people — every man, woman and child.
This week should be a reminder, especially to the Biden administration, that we can never let down our guard when it comes to the threat of Iranian-backed terrorism. How we respond as a nation to this latest, horrific terrorist attack against Israel will also determine the safety and security of our country because there is no question that Russia, China and Iran are watching what we say and do to support Israel.
They are assessing our response and what it means for the war in Ukraine and China’s threat against Taiwan in the years ahead. In other words, this new evil axis is clearly feeling emboldened, and this has been made more challenging by what may have been an intelligence failure by the West. That question remains to be answered, but there is no denying that the administration must put more focus on the effectiveness of our intelligence gathering.
One of the takeaways from 9/11 was our government’s failure to imagine that flying planes into skyscrapers was probable or even possible. After 9/11, all things became imaginable, and government changed its whole approach to terrorism and upped our guard against those who would harm this country.
But it’s been two decades since 9/11, and it appears a sense of complacency has developed among some in the United States as hope has clouded focus and diligence. About a week before the attack on Israel, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that “… the Middle East region is quieter today than it has been in two decades. Now challenges remain, Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. But the amount of time I have to spend on crisis and conflict in the Middle East today, compared to any of my predecessors going back to 9/11, is significantly reduced.”
Along with their overoptimism, Biden’s national security team must recognize that the lack of security along our southern border needs to be addressed at a significant scale. Strengthening security is not an anti-immigrant policy; it is an anti-terrorist policy that unfortunately complicates the immigration issue but has to be resolved for the security of all Americans.
Additionally — and this has to happen as a clear message to Iran — the $6 billion released by the Biden administration as part of a hostage deal should be frozen immediately. One of the Biden administration’s weakest arguments is their claim that the $6 billion did not fund terrorist activities and could be used only for humanitarian activities. What they reject is the reality that once that money was made available, Iran could use other funds for terrorism that would normally have gone for food and hospitals. That money is fungible is not a difficult idea to grasp.
This leads to perhaps one of the biggest challenges to the Biden administration, the fact that its energy policies have led to a strengthened market for Iranian oil. President Joe Biden’s decision to limit domestic energy production has dramatically increased Iran’s resources to fund terrorist activities, just as natural gas for Europe has provided Putin with additional resources for Ukraine.
Using domestic energy resources to limit terrorist activities and reduce the effectiveness of Russian expansionist pursuits is essential for our security as well as global security. The need to cut off Iran’s ability to export oil is a critical step toward significantly reducing terrorism throughout the world.
Biden on Tuesday was strong in his support of Israel, rightly calling what happened there “pure, unadulterated evil.” He was clear in his commitment to ensure close ties and military support. But he did not effectively address the issues discussed above. In his remarks, he sidestepped the critical force behind the instability of the Middle East when he never mentioned Iran once.
Given Iran’s broad support of terrorism around the world and The Wall Street Journal’s reporting this week, this was a significant omission. As a result, the president never raised the issue of what to do with the $6 billion that may be released to Iran through a prisoner swap deal, nor was there any discussion of allowing more U.S. domestic energy production to economically impact both Iran and Russia.
Instead, it seemed the president was trying to characterize the horrific Hamas assault as an isolated event, overlooking the possibility that what is happening in Israel may well also embolden the Iran-Russia-China axis. The war in Ukraine and the war in Israel are not isolated events. They are intertwined conflicts with global implications.
David Winston is the president of The Winston Group and a longtime adviser to congressional Republicans. He previously served as the director of planning for Speaker Newt Gingrich. He advises Fortune 100 companies, foundations, and nonprofit organizations on strategic planning and public policy issues, as well as serving as an election analyst for CBS News.