Jason Langsner

The Popeye Doctrine

A major milestone in U.S. foreign policy came in 1823 with President James Monroe’s address to Congress.  We were still a fledgling nation.  The U.S. Civil War had yet to be fought.  In no way did the world look at America as what today is either a super power or a hegemonic state.  But we were a land whose strength was growing and we had ample resources.

In 1823, the world needed to wait another 37 years before Herzl took his first breadth.

In 1823, the Ottoman-Persian War was coming to an end.

In 1823, what became known as The Monroe Doctrine also became a declaration that the American people and the American government will not stand for acts of aggression towards our neighbors and our friends.

Although the foreign policy statement by the fifth U.S. President was focused on protecting Latin America from expansionist European nations, partially for our own security, the same idea that prompted the line in the sand to be drawn is once again needed.  What was said then that an act of aggression on Latin America is an act of aggression on the United States of America is still true; but my thoughts are that an act of aggression on Israel, on Canada, on England, on the west – by terrorists – is an act of aggression against humanity, democracy, and freedom.  It isn’t just an act of aggression on the country victimized by terror but it is an act against us all.

Not just the American people and not just world Jewry, but humanity must take a stand against such inhumanity.  Rather than a new-American centric Monroe Doctrine, I feel that we as good hearted global citizens need a Popeye Doctrine for today’s hyper-globalized, inter-connected, and complex world.

The Popeye Doctrine is based on one simple idea said by the sailor man himself, “That’s all I can stands, cuz I can’t stands n’more!”

A new line in the sand needs to be drawn.  Today’s threat to humanity is today’s threat to Israel – terrorists.  Hamas.  It is the same threat that attacked America on 9/11 – terrorists.  Al-Qaeda.  It is the same threat that attacked England on 7/7 – terrorists.  Co-opted Britons who became radical Jihadists.  Is it the same threat that refuses to bring back our girls in Nigeria – terrorists.  Boko Haram.  It is the same threat that sets off pressure cooker bombs at the Boston Marathon – terrorists.  Chechen-American radical Jihadists.  It is the same threat that commits genocide in Iraq – terrorists.  ISIS.  The same threat that downs a Malaysian airline over the Ukraine – terrorists.  Russian separatists.  It is the same threat that brings guns into U.S. schools, that bombs an Oklahoma City federal building, or attacks an Atlanta Olympics or Munich Olympics – terrorists.  Foreign and domestic.  The list has become frighteningly too long (as one radicalized group or individual is too many).

A good hearted global citizen can disagree with public policy.  A good hearted global citizen can debate public policy in a civil way with other good hearted global citizens that may disagree with them on that public policy.  But no good hearted citizen can indiscriminately fire rockets at civilians in Israel, kidnap girls and force them into marriages/sexual slavery in Africa, behead Christians and people of other faiths in Mosul, or bring a gun into a U.S. school with the intention of shooting innocent children.

That is the line that I draw in the sand.  Good hearted people v extremists.

Today the acclaimed American comedian and actor Robin Williams committed suicide.  He was battling with depression.  The world has become a much more complicated place since 1823.  See my earlier comments.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 1 out of 10 U.S. adults suffer from some form of depression.

I recall watching re-runs of Mork and Mindy with my Jewish grandparents as a young Jewish boy in America.  My father’s father was a first generation Jewish-American.  He, as a Hungarian-Jew, fled Eastern Europe, leaving from Cherbourg, France, and arriving at Ellis Island New York at 5 years young.  He came to the U.S. from Eastern Europe and because of this I am here today.  I could just have easily been a Jewish-Israeli if Otto Langsner headed to pre-state Israel and became an early-settler.  I could just have easily been nothing if he weren’t able to flee from the Holocaust.

In 1980, Robin Williams brought the cartoon character Popeye to the big screen.  I was born a year later.  It is next to impossible to juxtapose the Holocaust with Popeye, but I am… Because “I yam what I yam.”  I yam a symbol that the Holocaust failed and a symbol that radicalism cannot succeed.

In 1929, just 106 years after the Monroe Doctrine was pronounced to Congress, my grandfather passed the Statue of Liberty and stepped through the gates of Ellis Island.

In 1929, just 106 years after the Monroe Doctrine was pronounced to Congress, the character of Popeye was debuted in the comic strips.

In 1929, as a part of the Palestinian riots, the massacre of Hebron took place.  Wikipedia describes this massacre as “the killing of sixty-seven Jews (including 23 college students) on 24 August 1929 in Hebron, then part of Mandatory Palestine, by Arabs incited to violence by false rumors that Jews were massacring Arabs in Jerusalem and seizing control of Muslim holy places.”

So much changes.  So much remains the same.

The false reports on social media.  The biased reporting in mass media.  The teachings of hate in schools.  The propaganda and the slander.  So much of today’s conflict in Gaza stems from a lack of appreciation of the truth and false rumors.

A new line in the sand needs to be drawn.

I dusted off a book from one of my public policy Masters classes before I sat down to write this blog post.  I wanted to refresh myself in Robert J. Art and Louise Richardson’s “Democracy and Counterterrorism:  Lessons from the Past.”  On page 264, under a chapter that highlights Israel’s counterterrorism actions there is a subheading called “The Palestinian Terrorist Organizations.”  The section suggests four types of terrorist organizations that Israel is countering.  In describing “The Islamic Group,” the authors in this academic text book describe the birth of Hamas:

The outbreak of the intifada (the 1987 popular uprising) and the ascendency of Islamic Jihad brought the Muslim Brothers to the conclusion that to preserve the relevance of the movement and prevent its activists from going over to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, it had to change its traditional stance and take an active part in events occurring in the territories.  To carry out this strategy, the Muslim Brothers created a military arm named Hamas, which took up the task of controlling the intifada in the territories.  Hamas’s ideology was a combination of Palestinian nationalism and aspirations for an independent state on all Palestinian territory under an Islamic Sharia rule.”

So as innocent Israelis need to live under the sirens and innocent Palestinian men, women, and children are victimized under the fist of Hamas, I need to connect the dots between my early studies of Popeye comics and my later studies of Georgetown University public policy and security studies courses and say, “That’s all I can stands, cuz I can’t stands n’more!”

On Friday, August 8, 2014, I walked over to the White House in Washington, D.C.  I work a block from it.  Two rallies were taking place.  Both described themselves as being peaceful.  Both were organized via Facebook.

The first rally was titled “Protest for unity! Palestine and Syria protest in Washington, D.C.”  Over 800 people were projected to attend.  I’d say 200 were there at best.  I witnessed peaceful individuals there respecting the Popeye Doctrine, but I also witnessed anti-Semitism circa levels of WWII.  The last time I saw such hatred in person, I was in Istanbul.  I have been struggling to find the words to describe some of what I saw in the shadow of the White House.  From my perspective, it wasn’t an anti-Assad or anti-ISIS rally so I don’t comprehend how they were standing for Syria or Syrians.  It was at its best a pro-Palestine/anti-Israel rally; and at its worst an anti-Semitic/pro-terror rally.  So rather than say it because I am challenged to find the words, below are some pictures that I have now etched in my memory that I witnessed personally and others there shared on the Facebook event after the fact.  [AGAIN – not all of the people there were acting this way, but enough were that the identity of the rally wasn’t peaceful.  It was violent towards Israel and towards Jews.]

The second rally was titled, “The Solidarity Rally with Israel.”  There I saw signs of “Free Gaza from Hamas” and “I love Israel.”  Americans and Israelis were waving the Israel flag.  They stood behind a police barrier with DC police between them and the first rally screaming terrible things at them. [The identity of this rally was driven by its grassroots nature to have Americans, Israelis, and others stand for the peace and security of both Israelis and the innocent people victimized in Gaza by the fist of Hamas.]

One sign in the Palestine/Syria rally side still makes me scratch my head.  It said “Genocide is genocide,” which I agree with.  But the person holding it and was screaming at the pro-Israel supporters accusing Israel of being a “racist, genocidal, apartheid state.”  Unfortunately from my perspective, Hamas is the group that is racist, genocidal, and a barrier creating group.  Israel provides far more freedom, safety, and security to its Arab-Israeli, Christian-Israeli, Druze-Israeli, etc populations than any other nation in the Middle East.

A new line in the sand needs to be drawn.  And I am thankful that when I look back at this conflict and the future of what l hope will be a two-state solution where two nations can coexist with each other, that I’ll remember standing on the side of peace, prosperity, and harmony eating spinach like Popeye to find my strength and supporting the Jewish democratic nation of Israel and the Jewish values that promote tikkun olam and humanity for all.

DISCLAIMER:  The views in this blog expressed are those of the author and may not represent those of any of the organizations that he is affiliated personally or professionally.

A vile image of a
A vile anti-Semitic photo I took of a man preaching hate outside of the White House on Friday.
Facebook Israel Solidarity
A photo from the Israel Solidarity Rally Facebook page in DC about the Palestine/Syria Unity protest.
About the Author
Jason Langsner is an active member of the American young Jewish professional community. He is a published author about Israel and American-Israeli affairs and regularly blogs and speaks at conferences about the intersection of communication, culture, politics, and technology. He formerly ran the digital strategy for B'nai B'rith International, the Global Voice of the Jewish Community, and currently serves as a lay leader with various pro-Israel organizations. Mr. Langsner received a Masters at Georgetown University and studied International Business Management at the University of Oxford.
Related Topics
Related Posts