Who Doesn’t Love a Proxy War
Proxy wars can cost so little: Take for example 7 October, when Hamas invaded Israel.
Who trained Hamas? Who planned it? Who funds Hamas?
The Iranians, says Pau Rahe, among the world’s top scholars of ancient military history.
Proxy wars are a great bargain. Hamas invading Israel on Oct. 7, says Mr. Rahe, “was a proxy war, sure.”
Who trained them? Who planned it? Who funds Hamas? The Iranians. What does it cost the Iranians, a little bit of money? How many Iranian soldiers died?
“Probably next to none. They’re doing it cut-price, and they gain an enormous amount because they’ve got the entire Arab world up in arms over this.”
A Win for Iran
Mr. Rahe (pronounced RAY) would like readers of his books “to learn to appreciate the strategic utility of proxy wars.”
From an Iranian perspective, (Rahe) says, “it’s brilliant. There was an alliance forming between Israel and the Sunni Arab states against Iran. That alliance is now in question, not because the Arab leaders have any sympathy for Hamas at all, but because of the Arab Street.”
Only the Names Have Been Changed
In the WSJ, Tunku Varadarajan interviews Paul Rahe in Hillsdale, Michigan, where Mr. Rahe is a professor of history and Western heritage at Hillsdale College, a private liberal-arts school 100 miles west of Detroit.
(Rahe) likens Vladimir Putin’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine to Athens’s attempt to conquer Sicily from 415-13 B.C. And he says it makes as much sense for the U.S. to back Ukraine as it did for the Spartans to help Sicily—which is to say, it’s a no-brainer.
As Mr. Varadarajan notes, antiquity isn’t merely academic for Mr. Rahe, who has just published his 5th book, “Sparta’s Sicilian Proxy War,” on the Greek city-state.
Embedded within it are maps that can help us sidestep present-day minefields and steer us toward common sense and smart strategy. These are qualities (Rahe) finds in short supply on America’s “isolationist right,” in whose ranks he includes Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy. (He admits of Mr. Trump that “I held my nose and voted for him in 2020.”)
Mr. Rahe, continues Mr. Varadarajan, has a message to Republicans like Messrs. Trump and Ramaswamy: “Listen to the Europeans. Listen to the Estonians, Lithuanians, Latvians, Poles, Czechs and Romanians. Listen to the Swedes and the Finns, who were neutral during the Cold War. They think this is highly significant.”
If Russia isn’t stopped in Ukraine, it may advance farther, drawing the U.S. in through its obligations under the NATO treaty. And “all the talk about the money we’re sending over, that’s cheap rhetoric. We’re not sending very much at all, in terms of our overall budget.
As for Mr. DeSantis, Mr. Rahe thinks he’d “sober up in office.” He will see that “the first function of government is national defense, and that America’s longstanding policy is that if there’s going to be fighting, we don’t want it here. We want it over there. America’s defense perimeter? We want it way out there.”
A proxy war in Eastern Europe is better than a war in North America. It’s time for us to think like Spartans.
“Are there dangers in a proxy war?” asks Mr. Varadarajan.
“Yes, sure, you can get drawn into it and then your people begin to die.” Asked for an example, (Rahe) says: “It’s called the American Revolution. It was a proxy war of the French, the Dutch and the Spanish. They wanted to knock the Brits down.” But the French “got drawn in. At the Battle of Yorktown there were more French than American troops.”
The American Revolution “was a great victory for France. But there was a price to pay. It’s called the French Revolution,” which was brought on in part by the fiscal ruin that resulted from overreach in projecting power.