During my year-long tour in Kabul, Afghanistan, I served as the military aide to the U.S. Army brigadier general in charge of NATO’s Rule of Law Mission. I joined the general in every high-level meeting with Afghan, American and international VIPs as we tried to establish a viable rule of law system in a country that had none. Although we failed in our overall mission, we did make incremental progress, much of which was due to our ability to cite our own democratic institutions and the consistent, peaceful transfers of power following our elections.
Deployed to a country that for centuries had relied on tribal affiliations and warlords, the ability to contrast the Afghan system with the American one gave our mission clout.
In watching the riotous mob of supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump and far-right extremists storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, I thought of how impossible that same Rule of Law Mission now seemed. Yes, we could cite how the House and Senate reconvened to certify the electoral votes or how order was restored within a matter of hours, but the glaring stain on American democratic institutions and values would be hard to conceal.
The moral authority that U.S. foreign policy could leverage in a place like Afghanistan had become far more difficult now that warlords and tyrants the world over could point to the Banana Republic-like images of the U.S. Capitol being overrun.
Beyond the irrevocable damage to American soft power, the mob’s actions may also harm the relationship between the United States and Israel. In the wake of the insurrection, there will be significant momentum to overturn everything affiliated with the Trump administration. Anything that might bolster Trump’s legacy will face a reckoning. And this retribution will likely be done with a sledgehammer rather than a scalpel. Unfortunately, this purge may do away with some of the historic achievements that the administration facilitated in the Middle East.
From recognizing the Golan Heights to defending Israeli settlements to presiding over the Abraham Accords, Trump was incredibly pro-Israel. His support for Israel, however, may prove to be a curse as the U.S.-Israel relationship may be viewed as a relic from a time that the new Biden administration must reconstruct.
Because the vast majority of American Jews are members of the Democratic Party, and Israel still has majority bipartisan support in Congress, this damage to the U.S.-Israel relationship may not be immediate. That said, support for Israel in the United States is rapidly becoming a divisive and partisan issue. Israel is anathema to the values of the progressive left, made amply clear by the most vocal members of the Democratic Party who have not been censured, despite spouting anti-Semitic and anti-Israel tropes. Coupled with the rise of critical social-justice ideologies within academic and governmental institutions, the false notion that Israel is a racist, oppressive, settler-colonial state is only gaining more transaction among younger Americans and American Jews.
Following the insurrection, my fear is that the mainstream media’s unfair, but likely, equating of all conservatives and Trump supporters as equivalent to the thugs who ransacked the Capitol will lead to less bipartisan support for Israel. Based on the mob’s actions, many Americans who did not have an opinion about the U.S.-Israel relationship may now view support for Israel as affiliation with a “toxic” Trump administration.
With full control of the executive and legislative branches, and significant momentum to purge the Trump administration’s policies and executive orders, robust U.S. support for Israel may dwindle. The Biden administration has already signaled interest to rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), colloquially known as the Iran deal. Furthermore, with the progressive left emboldened and ascendant, and the Republican Party in disarray, there will be no check on the most radical voices of the Democratic Party when it comes to challenging continued U.S. support for Israel. Withholding of foreign aid, sanctions on Israeli settlements and the lack of support in international bodies like the United Nations may become the prelude to the new American-Israeli relationship.
The fallout from the Capitol insurrection will not be fully known in the immediate future. But what transpired on Jan. 6, 2021 will have ramifications for years, if not decades, to come for American soft power and the U.S.-Israel relationship.
Micah Quinney Jones, an attorney, a U.S. Army veteran and a pro-Israel advocate, is a contributing adjunct at The MirYam Institute. He is a recipient of the Bronze Star Medal for Meritorious Service. He served more than five years as a military intelligence branch detail infantry officer in the army and was honorably discharged as a captain in 2016. He deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2014-15 as part of the 82nd Airborne Division.