Is it Daish or Vladimir Putin?
For the time being, Israelis are observers of those quarreling whether--or how--to deal with Daish or Putin.
With respect to Putin, The reserve of some stems from Ukrainians' bad name in Jewish history. For others, it results from Ukrainians' dismal record in creating a country that serves its people rather than the clique that gains control. Others note that a large percentage of the people living in the eastern part of Ukraine are Russians, who have grievances against Kiev and hopes for Moscow.
Daish may work to our advantage, by making the point--along with Hamas--about the dangers of our neighbors. Every ghastly act by one or another gang of Muslim fanatics helps our case against those who accuse us of overreacting.
Against Putin are serious contentions that he is a grabber of territory, not to be trusted, with his eyes on other places that used to be part of the Soviet Union and have sizable Russian-speaking populations who can be enticed to rebel.
Ukraine was a place for him to begin. It is not a member of NATO, and the betting is that none of the western powers will do more than impose the kinds of sanctions that have proved weak against Iran, and are not likely to do more against a determined Russian with a strong army and a weak neighbor.
The Baltic states and Moldava are said to be the most worried about Putin's next moves. Poland's history is cause for concern.
We all should be worried about the verbal jousting of Putin and the heads of governments in NATO. Sanctions are the least of what is being threatened. Westerners are talking about a mobile force to protect eastern members of NATO and other allies. The word nuclear has been heard from the Russian side, along with a threat to seize Kiev if the Ukrainians prove unreasonable.
Fighters have agreed to a cease fire, but there is more recent news of its violation.
Betting is that Putin will get what he wants in Ukraine, whatever that is.
Daish has plundered and killed in the outer parts of Syria and Iraq, but it is not clear that they it controls sizable populations. Most frightening is the capacity of Daish and other fanatics to attract Muslims living in the west, and looking for a cause. Their filmed beheadings and massacre of prisoners reminds us of brutalities we have read about, and do not want anywhere near us. Westerners have reason to worry about the next 9-11.
The French Muslim accused of killing several people at the Jewish Museum of Brussels had returned from Syria where he had questioned and tortured prisoners, including the two American journalists who were subsequently killed.
Those who haven't managed to derail Iran's nuclear program, or clean Syria of chemical weapons are getting another chance, which they seem destined to fail.
Where is a Winston Churchill when required?
Or Saddam Hussein. He would have solved the problem of Daish with ugly dispatch. But not more ugly than what Daish has done.
What Churchill's Air Force did to Dresden was also ugly, but would bring us to an historical assessment best avoided in this context.
Barack Obama is not Churchill.
In one of his recent statements Obama claimed credit for the cease fire in Ukraine, which he linked to the sanctions imposed by the US and its European partners. A few hours later those interested in a cease fire had to rescue it from renewed violence.
The State Department has moved against the recruitment of Americans to ISIS with a video making the points that recruits will be involved in brutal actions against fellow Muslims, and are likely to be among those killed.
Obama's declaration of a 10-nation coalition against Daish includes the problematic partners Iran and Hezbollah, and is still short of having a detailed plan beyond aid to as-yet undefined soldiers who will do the actual fighting, sporadic bombing, and increased intelligence to gain knowledge about what should be done.
John Kerry has said that the Arab League must take a major role in dealing with Daish and other extremists.
Should someone ask Kerry about Hezbollah being part of the American coalition, along with its Iranian allies?
What is common to Daish and Putin is that neither is so important for the great powers as to warrant an immediate and forceful response. Both have brought forth great words of threat from Obama and others, in danger of shrinking their capacity if not followed up by actions of commensurate weight.
Those applauding Neville Chamberlain said that Czechoslovakia was not worth a war.
Putin is no Hitler, but Russian power and assessments of his aspirations are something to reckon with.
The collection of violent organizations, militias, families, or gangs under the heading of Islam are even more difficult to assess than Putin. There are so many of them, they are unpredictable and fluid in moving between cooperation and warfare. They all may be Muslim, but no more united than the Christians who fought with one another in centuries past for their own bizarre reasons.
What to do about both Putin and the Islamists are still at the stages of pondering, planning, and politicking among western powers.
Optimists hope that Islamic fanatics will implode due to warfare among them, without getting much further than the failed states of Syria, Iraq, or northern Nigeria. And that Putin will rest after getting control (perhaps not the actual absorption) of eastern Ukraine.
Then there are the pessimists.