WHILE most (Western) economists claim that Hamas’ invasion of Israel last Saturday so far has not been an “economic event” that would affect the rest of the world, war’s other name is chaos, whose impact is magnified, and accelerated, in a globalized world.
I don’t think Hamas — the acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement in Arabic — planned it as just a bigger intifada (“uprising”) that was boldly extended outside Gaza. That Israelis themselves see it as their version of “9/11” when al-Qaida reduced the Twin Towers in New York to rubble is foreboding — that attack led to the US-led wars against Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.
Remember also that the Israel-Hamas war is not the only one raging at present. There is still the 19-month-old Ukraine-Russia war. Russia may just see the Israel-Hamas conflict as leading to the lessening of US resolve to defend Ukraine and undertake an intense, more ruthless campaign to subdue that country.
This would worsen the war’s deleterious impact on the world economy, which a United Nations report summarized as follows: “One year since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the war’s economic impact still reverberates around the world. The war… weighed negatively on global economic activity, adding to inflationary pressures worldwide and impeding the post-pandemic recovery. The war has contributed to volatile and elevated commodity and energy prices, which exacerbated food shortages and stoked inflation in many regions across the world. Although energy and grain prices subsided from their mid-2022 peaks, the risks of their resurgence remain, and Europe may still face challenges to its energy security.”
The biggest risk to the world, and us, emerging from the Gaza-based Hamas’ unprecedented and brutal invasion of Israel — in reality, a terrorist attack on a huge scale — involves Iran’s being dragged into the war. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s threat to reduce “Gaza to rubble” and enjoining the Muslims there to leave the city, is ominous.
Netanyahu, politically beleaguered with corruption charges, may take advantage of Israeli and the world’s outrage against the killing and abduction of innocents (even grandmothers, babies and toddlers) and may just decide to be known as the Israeli leader to finally rid half of the Palestinian territories remaining, which are Gaza with a 2 million population of Muslims and the West Bank with 3 million. (Gaza was Egypt’s territory and the West Bank Lebanon’s until the two with other Arab countries attacked Israel in the 1967 war, were defeated, and lost these to the victor.)
It would be near impossible for the Israelis to attack Gaza and not kill a lot of civilians since it is very densely populated, with the Hamas’ facilities embedded in buildings and Hamas-built underground networks. What will replace the images broadcast around the world of Israeli civilians brutally killed or abducted will be Arab children bathed in blood, their bodies mangled by the US-made bombs of the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) US-made warplanes.
With an area of just 363 square kilometers (slightly bigger than our Samal Island) it is not inconceivable for the IDF to decide to depopulate Gaza of its Muslims and dot it with its camps, and then when things subside, open it up to Israeli settlements, as has been done on a huge scale in the West Bank. Indeed, it is probably what Netanyahu had in mind when he said that the IDF’s response to the Hamas attack “will change the Middle East,” and the war’s eventual result “will reverberate through generations of Muslims.”
Will the Muslim world, especially the countries that in 1967 attacked Israel — Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria — to destroy it but failed, do nothing as the dream of Muslims taking back the lands Israel grabbed in 1948 when it was established with the help mainly of Britain, vanish with Gaza’s destruction? No one can really say, but the risk is clear.
Iran has nurtured Hamas so much over the years that the Israelis believe it poured huge financial and military resources into the attack. It is not unlikely that Israel, on the justification that it must prevent a similar attack by Hamas again in the future, will deal Iran some kind of military blow, which in turn Iran will respond to — escalating the Israeli-Hamas war. Or was Hamas’ attack intended really to do so?
Iran has nearly a million soldiers, consisting of 610,000 active-duty personnel and 350,000 reserve and trained personnel that can be mobilized when needed. Israel has 170,000 active personnel and 465,000 reserve for a 635,000-strong military force. A war between the two countries will be long and brutal.
But then Israel has more modern weapons systems, especially American warplanes, and state-of-the-art technology. Its game-changing weapons are its 90 nuclear ready-to-deliver bombs. Tactical versions of these could be dropped on the Iranian army with a contained fallout in the region.
But we are getting far ahead into scenario-building. By the time Israel has devastated Gaza, that war would have pushed prices of oil and other commodities through the roof, as any major conflict in the oil-producing Middle East has done.
This war I hope would be another reminder to our free-market ideologues that their “competitive advantage” belief is a myth. War always disrupts production and supply chains that every country must strive to have a modicum of self-sufficiency in its basic needs, from energy to rice, no matter how uncompetitive local production of these are.
While the Israel-Hamas war may seem to be so distant to our shores, its impact — when it gets worse — can hit us overnight. It’s time for President Marcos Jr. to convene his advisers into a crisis group to study and adopt plans for a worst-case scenario that war in the Middle East may develop into.
An obvious urgent task is how to evacuate our 30,000 workers there if the situation worsens. A less urgent task is to study and make plans on how we secure the commodities we need, as wars always disrupt the usual supply chains.
Oops, China, because of its huge economy that has grown in leaps, has emerged as some kind of last-resort source for critical commodities such as oil and even rice. But even our Defense secretary has been so talkative about China being an enemy, an “aggressor,” obviously because he thinks, beguiled by biased polls, that being anti-Chinese will endear him to Filipinos, enough to catapult him to the presidency.
To be honest, Filipinos care little about our territorial disputes, especially as these involve areas they hardly know existed. They will vote for a candidate who manages to steer in whatever way the economy out of what could be the perfect storm in the coming years, one who realizes that all these anti-Chinese accusations are mostly disseminated by the US.
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