I caught up with Congressman Jason Crow at the Halifax International Security Forum, a major global security conference held each year in Nova Scotia that brings together military leaders, politicians, media and civil society groups from democratic countries. Congressman Crow is a Democrat from Colorado, first elected in 2019 and someone widely viewed as a rising star in national security and foreign policy circles. We discuss the Israel-Palestine crisis, kicking off with a question about the propriety of calling for a ceasefire. We then discuss the impact this crisis is having in the broader Middle East, on domestic politics in the United States — and why Israel should not repeat the mistakes of the US War on Terror.
The episode is freely available on all podcast listening apps.
Transcript excerpt edited for clarity
Mark Leon Goldberg: So to kick off, I’d like your view on the propriety of an immediate cease fire in Gaza and Israel right now. What’s your current thinking on that?
Congressman Jason Crow: Well, I’ve been very clear that Israel has a right to defend itself and to respond to the terrorist attack of October 7th. We also learned a lot of lessons during our 20 year war against terror. We spent over $3.5 trillion, over 6000 American lives and tens of thousands of other lives taken around the world. And in some ways, our credibility, too. And we spent all that time and effort, and yet we still deal with the threat of ISIS and al Qaeda. So the lesson that I draw from that is that you cannot address terrorism with military means alone, that you have to couple that with diplomatic and humanitarian aid and a political resolution. So I am concerned that right now we are on a path where we don’t have the right proportion of diplomatic and humanitarian concern about this issue and that it’s being done solely through a military lens and that ultimately that that won’t be successful.
So what I have called for is a humanitarian pause. And why I think the humanitarian pause is the right way to go about this, because we’re asking for Israel to do something, right? A cease fire implies that all parties to the conflict have both the capability and the willingness to abide by a cease fire. Hamas has neither of those things. And Hamas, by definition, is a terrorist organization that lives outside of rules, doesn’t agree to rules and in many ways is the definition of terrorism and how terrorist groups act. And Hamas is also not a monolith. We also know that it’s a compilation of a dozen different groups for different command structures. So even if you got one command structure, one group to abide by, it doesn’t mean that the others would. So it’s in my view, it could not be effectuated. That’s why a humanitarian pause, I think, is the right way to go about this.
Mark Leon Goldberg: Is there a contradiction, though, in your earlier invocation of the need for more diplomacy, more humanitarian aid and then advocating a lesser humanitarian pause versus a more broad cease fire? Humanitarian pauses are what the Biden administration has been calling for now for a few weeks, yet it seems that Israel is not abiding by humanitarian pauses — that does not seem to be happening.
Congressman Jason Crow: No, I disagree with the characterization that a humanitarian pause is, as you say, lesser than a cease fire. I want to be really clear here. We have to be very specific about what it is we are asking to have happen and to whom we are making those asks, right? Hamas is a terrorist organization that will not follow the rules. They will not abide by agreements. They will never stop fighting. They will never stop using human shields. That’s what history shows. There’s nothing in history that would show that they would abide by a cease fire or abide by any type of agreement, period. So what we are asking is to engage with Israel for them to take a different approach, one that’s based on the lessons that we learned during our 20 year war on terror, of which there are many, many of which I learned personally fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan that puts protection of civilians and humanitarian needs front and center, because ultimately the pathway to peace, the pathway to stability both for Israel and the broader Middle East, will be that you can’t win a war against terror with military means. All you can do with a military is you can contain a threat and you can shape the battlefield to then open up avenues for political, diplomatic and humanitarian resolution. And that ultimately is the direction we need to go.
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