In Other News – Long Term Global Security at Stake

Multiple conflicts and war fatigue might challenge policy makers, but long-term global security is at stake. As Israel enters the next phase of its battle against Hamas, with ground troops entering Gaza and reportedly encircling Gaza City, the dramatic, decades-old regional conflict has recaptured the world’s attention. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has cautioned that the physical war will be long and difficult and has suggested that Israel will manage Gaza’s security indefinitely after the battle’s eventual end. As much as members of the international community might try to pressure Israel into a “humanitarian pause” or “ceasefire” in Gaza, Israel recognizes that every pause presents an opportunity for Hamas terrorists to escape through the Egyptian border, re-equip, or further abuse Israeli hostages.

While Israel does its best to weaken Hamas on the ground, outside of Gaza the war is being fought with fiery media and activist rhetoric, contentious political debate, UN votes and debates about funding. Further amplifying the conflict, the information war is in full force: many social media postings in support of the Palestinian cause have devolved to the point of denying that Hamas even kidnapped Israelis on October 7 at all – regardless of the extensive footage documented by the terrorists themselves showing otherwise. Ruthless Hamas leaders have also proudly declared that they launched the attack in all its brutality – and that they’d do it again and again.

But it’s getting harder for social media consumers to know what’s real and what’s fake, and this is impacting real-world behavior. Online, China and Russia are both employing their well-honed propaganda machines – long used to indoctrinate their own populations – to influence individuals far beyond their borders. Photoshopped and frequently mis-attributed battlefield images are spread across the screen in unprecedented numbers. It is unclear what Washington is doing to counter the rampant disinformation that has permeated social media via TikTok and Telegram.

In addition to the disinformation being propagated via social media, many traditional media outlets are also covering the conflict in a slanted manner, sometimes elevating it beyond other critical global stories. For example, for months Qatar-funded media giant Al-Jazeera carefully tracked the war in Ukraine – noting nuanced developments both on the battlefield and in foreign policy. But now the entire platform is overwhelmed with one-sided information on the Israel-Hamas war. While it’s not surprising that a Middle Eastern company with a personal stake in the conflict would quickly forget Ukraine and move on to the crisis in its backyard, Ukraine has seen less airtime in many Western media outlets as well.

Further, in the case of Ukraine, there are both media and policy developments that highlight the potential threat of war fatigue. This week, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy’s head of office Andrii Yermak claimed that rumors of Ukrainian war fatigue were being driven by Russian propaganda efforts. But he also stated that “Even if there are people who feel this fatigue, I’m sure they don’t want to wake up in a world tomorrow where there will be less freedom and less security, and the consequences of this last for decades.”

Indeed, when we commit to supporting our allies, it ensures that aggressors know that there are devastating consequences for their unjustified actions. While Ukraine might have initially been surprised by Russia’s brazen attack and advance towards Kyiv, Russia was likewise surprised by Ukraine’s immediate and persistent defense. Likewise, while the Hamas attack was shocking in its tactics and scale, Israel’s response is likely to be stunning even to the terrorists who knew that there would be military retribution. Both Ukraine and Israel recognize that if their adversaries aren’t firmly deterred, they indeed will live under the continued threat of further attacks for eternity.

It is important to understand that Washington’s continued funding of Ukraine – while simultaneously supporting Israel against Hamas – is a critical investment in the democratic world order that we want to live in, and a way to have an immediate impact on our adversaries. It also sends a strong and essential message to Iran and China that we are willing to actively defend our values.

The Arkin Group is a strategic intelligence firm offering investigative research, due diligence, international risk and crisis consulting, and security & preparedness services. We can be contacted at 212-333-0280.