When the current conflict between Israel and Hamas began, it looked much like a resumption of the conflict that has led to similarly tragic consequences in recent years. Israel was poised to set back Hamas's war-making ability by a few years, leading the Israeli government to gain support domestically. As in recent similar conflicts, it was expected that too many civilians would be killed in Gaza, thus strengthening the anti-Israel narrative within Gaza, and globally, bolstering Hamas's wavering popularity. After roughly a month of this war, it is clear that these things have occurred, but other the war has also led to changes in the broader conflict that may not be immediately apparent but that are significant for both sides, as well as for those who would like to see this conflict end.
The war in Gaza is characterized by two sides that, for reasons of domestic and external politics, define victory very differently. Israel employs a reasonably conventional military notion of victory, measuring their success in by their ability to keep their own people safe and destroy Hamas's ability to make war on them. Hamas, for its, part defines victory largely by driving up hatred for Israel both inside and outside of Gaza. These two visions are not only different, but exist on largely different planes, making it possible for both sides to simultaneously view themselves as winning this conflict based on their own criteria.
Both sides in this conflict find it difficult to separate the best media strategy from the narrative to which they have long been wed. For Israel that means trying to convince the rest of the world that they are different from other countries and care about civilian deaths, while for Palestinians it means holding on to the notion that they are ignored by the world and marginalized by a the global media that is unduly influenced by Israel. These two narratives may no longer be the most useful for each group, but they are still strong and often make it harder for both sides to see how the conflict, the world and indeed themselves are changing.
When this decade, which is now only a few days old ends, we will almost certainly be confronting foreign policy challenges that are hard to foresee right now. In January of 2000 few would have foreseen that a terrorist attack on the U.S. would so radically reorient and drive our foreign policy for most of the decade or that we would spend most of the decade embroiled in a seemingly endless war in Iraq. However, it is likely that some of the foreign policy issues confronting the U.S. now will not go away and will remain confounding problems throughout the decade. Some issues such as the problem of combating terrorism or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will remain, but may take very different forms over the course of the decade. These five are likely to remain substantially unchanged over the next ten years.
These nature of the findings of these reports do, however, raise the question of what the real purpose of the reports were. The stated purpose of the reports was simply to determine the truth about the origins of one war and the conduct of another, but it is hard to take this entirely at face value. It is difficult not to come to the conclusion that a major purpose of the both reports was to provide a rationale for both institutions to pursue policies to which they had largely already committed. This is more true of the EU report because the UN doesn’t usually pursue policies in that sense.
Placing Obama's first 100 days in context is important because for the first 100 days, at least, the whole outweighs the sum of its parts. Not only have Obama's first 100 days been by far the best of any president of my lifetime, but they began not a day too soon. The country was reeling economically, directionless in foreign policy, losing credibility and support abroad and suffering a crisis of confidence at home when Obama became president. Obama has begun to turn all of this around. Moreover, even though Obama has not been a constant optimist in the White House he has restored confidence both abroad and domestically as most Americans believe our new president is, for the most part, leading us in the right directions. There have also been a range of less high profile issues including stem cell research, national service, allowing science back into policy and, frankly, bringing a sense of normalcy back to Washington, for which Obama also deserves credit. Ultimately, what stops Obama from getting an A is his approach to addressing finance and banking issues, so his final grade is A-.