Cataclysmic events like the Hamas onslaught on Israel trigger profound political shocks and strategic transformations that no one could predict at the time.
The rocket attacks, hostage takings and mass killings inside Israel came as the global order was already at a pivot point, with the post-Cold War era swept away by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s superpower ascent.
The raw shock over what just happened – the scenes of gunned down civilians at an Israeli music festival, the wrenching accounts of families torn apart and the fierce first burst of Israeli reprisal attacks on Gaza – are transfixing the world.
But politics is never still for long. The sudden and bloody shattering of a rare interregnum of calm and hope for diplomatic breakthroughs in the Middle East is already shifting calculations in Israel, the United States, the Arab world and across the globe.
The Hamas assault has been compared to the September 11 attacks in the United States in 2001 – as a comparatively low-tech assault on civilians that breached the homeland of a more powerful and sophisticated adversary, partly by defying the imagination of threat assessors in a complacent national security and political establishment.
The lesson of that historic trauma was that the political and military steps taken by American and other leaders when normal politics roared back to life did not just change the world through military action. They unleashed extraordinary political forces inside nations like the United States and Britain, creating conditions that are still influencing society and elections.