As another wild war is raging in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas, American national interests and security are burning up with it every day. Israel may not care what its neighbors think of it; it is already the bête noire of the Arab and Islamic world. But the United States needs to care, because the Arab-Israeli conflict has probably caused more harm to American foreign policy and diplomacy in the Arab and Islamic world than anything else.

Since the conflict has no military solution, for the United States to simply support the continuation of this war is outright dangerous for American interests and security.

The silence on the dangerous consequences of the war and President Bush’s total support for Israel may undermine any new American military and diplomatic efforts in the Arab and Islamic world.

America’s role in this new war will hamper President-elect Barack Obama, as the consequences of a fresh cycle of death and anger will minimize his popular support in the Arab world and consequently obstruct his endeavors to engage in diplomatic negotiations with Arab and Islamic countries.

Obama may have already lost his chance for a honeymoon with ordinary Arabs. Every day that this war rages on, Obama’s credibility is on the line. He must act in an extraordinary fashion to help resolve this conflict, before his presidency is sucked into the wormhole that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It is also not in the interest of the United States to remain silent and give blind support to Israel without considering the ramifications of Israeli wars on American foreign policy. This war will be a diplomatic nightmare for the United States if Obama attempts to gain the trust of ordinary Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims around the world. The timing of this war with Obama’s inauguration is unfortunate in light of America’s possible new foreign policy approach to the Middle East, considering the raw and fresh feelings of hatred and grief toward Israel and, indirectly, toward the United States. In the future, there may be little trust in America’s capacity and good intentions to help resolve this conflict.

This Israel-Hamas war will also hamper America’s efforts to empower moderate individuals and movements in the Arab world and to fight the war on Islamist terrorism that so chillingly endangers America’s national interest and security. This war will provide justification for a propaganda war that will empower extremist groups such as Hamas, the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine, Hezbollah and America’s nemesis, al-Qaeda.

At the same time, this war will devastate moderate forces that the United States would like to cultivate in the Arab world. This war will overwhelm moderate voices and efforts to provide a more rational alternative to suicide bombing and launching rockets. This war will sustain anti-Americanism long after President Bush leaves office.

One of the most troubling implications of American entanglement overseas is the loss of American diplomatic leverage. The United States is being overshadowed and sidelined as the good cop in diplomatic negotiation and conflict resolution. Meanwhile, the European Union is superseding America’s position as the diplomatic force for conflict resolution around the world, from South Ossetia to Gaza. America is perceived less and less as a legitimate mediator in conflict, particularly in the Middle East, as people have lost trust in its capacity for impartiality and good intentions.

Although Israel has the right to defend itself, America’s silence is not pragmatic – it’s ideological. Our apathy to the suffering of Gazans is contrary to American principles. In the meantime, this begs a worrisome question: Who really is looking out for the long-term interests of the United States?

Loghman Fattahi is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service.

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