Israel-Hamas Conflict Challenges Global Power Balance

Why war may be a windfall for America’s major political rivals.

Photo by Palestinian News & Information Agency (Wafa) in contract with APAimages under CC BY-SA 3.0

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Why war may be a windfall for America’s major political rivals.

In 2021, U.S. Army General Mark Milley warned that the “great power peace” that’s reigned over international matters since the end of World War II was showing signs of strain and “fraying at the edge.”

With President Biden arriving in Israel this week to underscore America’s support for Israel’s war in Gaza and engage in talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he confronts an increasingly fraught geopolitical landscape, spanning the Middle East, the Russian-led war on Ukraine, and rising tensions with China.

With the U.S. currently distracted by the devastating fallout from Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which killed more than 1,400 people – and Israel’s counter-attacks, leading to the deaths of nearly 3,450 Palestinians – growing strains on global power balances will be inevitable.

America’s top geopolitical foes – China, Russia and Iran – are expected to take full advantage of any chance they get to undermine U.S. hegemony, as it juggles pressures on multiple diplomatic and war fronts. “What we are seeing is part of a shifting and moving world order,” former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb, who is running for Finland’s presidency, told The Wall Street Journal this week. “When the U.S. leaves power vacuums, someone is going to fill those vacuums.”

The U.S. is already assiduously addressing vacuums in the Middle East, but the Israel-Hamas war likely won’t be only a regional conflagration: It is expected to further stretch American and European resources, while distracting the U.S. from the Russian-led war on Ukraine and handing new political and economic opportunities to China – all topics Power Corridor has covered in detail this year here.

The outcome of the tragic attacks remains uncertain, but, so far, Russia and China are aligning with the Palestinian cause, in opposition to America’s support for Israel – with Russia reveling in the conflict by pointing to what it sees as the hypocrisy of the West.

Years ago, Milley turned to the pages of history for answers.
“With history as our guide, we would be wise to lift our gaze from the never-ending urgency of the present to set the conditions for a future that prevents great power war,” he advised, adding, “Right now, we are in a great power competition with China and Russia…And we need to keep it at competition and avoid great power conflict.”