At a panel discussion at Rice University’s Baker Institute involving three former U.S. secretaries of state — attended in person by Clinton and James Baker and remotely by Henry Kissinger — she suggested that anyone demanding a cease-fire is ignorant.
“People who are calling for a cease-fire now do not understand Hamas; that is not possible,” Clinton said at last week’s event. “It would be such a gift to Hamas because they would spend whatever time there was a cease-fire in effect rebuilding their armaments, you know, creating stronger positions to be able to fend off an eventual assault by the Israelis.”
I can think of hundreds of thousands of people in the Gaza Strip who aren’t members of Hamas and would surely welcome a cease-fire.
So my response to the claim that people who want a cease-fire don’t understand the militant group is that, with all due respect, Clinton doesn’t appear to understand people. Or the resentment they can foster.
Clinton’s underestimation of the fervor of her opponent’s supporters has cost her politically in the past. And I think her remarks here extend from the same flaw: a poor ability to anticipate emotional reactions.
I’ll admit, I’ve grown tired of trying to appeal to people’s sensitivity during times of intense violence. As a millennial who came of age during the Black Lives Matter movement, I’ve been burned too much by complicit people who don’t seem moved by human suffering. These days, I find more success trying to appeal to people’s sanity and their longing for self-preservation, which both tend to be a bit more motivating.
So I’ll forgo the seemingly obvious point: that bombing innocent people is extremely cruel, even when it’s in response to cruel terrorist attacks.
And I’ll opt instead for a slightly less obvious point: that bombing innocent people is extremely ill-advised from a tactical perspective if the ultimate goal is eradicating terrorism. (I recently wrote about why it can be counterproductive here.)
Clinton certainly isn’t alone in her thinking; the Biden White House also opposes a cease-fire. But her viral remarks struck me as the kind of American hubris that many people around the globe — and, in fact, in the U.S. — have come to reject.
When U.S. elites are co-headlining events with infamous Vietnam War architect Henry Kissinger and telling us why bombing must continue in the Middle East, it seems like a sign they’re getting too comfortable with wartime casualties. Like a boomerang, sending cruelty out into the world can come right back.
Ja’han Jones is The ReidOut Blog writer. He’s a futurist and multimedia producer focused on culture and politics. His previous projects include “Black Hair Defined” and the “Black Obituary Project.”