President Joe Biden has repeatedly refused to push for a ceasefire in Israel’s brutal war on Gaza, which has claimed the lives of at least 26,000 Palestinians. That approach is illogical on both the domestic and international fronts, not to mention the security risks that come with it. Those risks were made all too apparent on Sunday when the Biden Administration announced that three U.S. servicemen were killed and 34 others injured in a drone attack by “radical Iran-backed militant groups” at a U.S. base near Jordan’s border with Syria.
Biden had entered office promising to restore sanity to U.S. foreign policy and pursue fact-based, pragmatic positions. The Biden Administration largely did that until the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that killed 1,200 people in Israel. That horrific attack marked the beginning of the end of Biden’s logical foreign policy from both a domestic and international perspective.
Let’s start from an international perspective. Prior to Oct. 7, the Biden Administration had been fairly cautious about foreign entanglements. When Russia laid siege to Ukraine, for example, officials deliberately avoided actions that would pull the U.S. into a direct conflict with Russia. Instead, policymakers carefully bolstered relationships with other allies and provided military support to Ukraine with discretion. In the Middle East, Biden also sought to avoid a direct confrontation with Iran and Russia in places such as Syria and Iraq. When pro-Iranian militias would carry out attacks against U.S. facilities in the region, the U.S. would respond with restraint and clearly communicate its preference for de-escalation.
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But that U.S. restraint has gone out the window since Oct. 7. Instead of using the $3.8 billion in annual military assistance to Israel as leverage, the Biden Administration has bypassed Congress to funnel millions of dollars of weapons to Israel; the President is seeking congressional approval for $14.3 billion more. Biden continues to reject calls for a ceasefire and has repeatedly justified Israel’s onslaught, despite the thousands of civilians killed in Gaza.
The U.S. is also directly fueling yet more violence in the Middle East by launching strikes against the Houthis in Yemen, who previously stated they will attack ships in the Red Sea until a ceasefire is secured in Gaza. The Houthis have increased their assaults—including striking a U.S.-owned cargo ship and firing a missile at a U.S. warship—since the U.S. launched its first round of strikes earlier this month.
Now, with Sunday’s attack that was claimed by Islamic Resistance, a coalition of Iranian-backed groups that oppose Washington’s support for Israel’s war on Gaza, the risk of escalation has only grown. Biden has vowed that the U.S. “shall respond” in the wake of the attack, the first to have killed U.S. troops in the region since the Israel-Hamas war began.
On the domestic front, Biden’s approach is bleeding support from his base. Just one in three registered voters approve of the President’s handling of the war, according to a poll from The New York Times and Siena College. That figure drops to 20% among voters under 30 who are core to Biden’s support base. Meanwhile, droves of Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim voters—who make up significant voter blocs in key swing states such as Michigan—have vowed to not vote for Biden. With repeat attacks in Yemen, they are fleeing even further from the Biden Administration.
The dwindling support risks handing the country back to Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans. Current polls put Trump ahead of Biden in the upcoming November elections.
Biden is also undermining one of the central themes of his re-election bid: That he will protect the forces of democracy. Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack is reprehensible. Yet the government of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has repeatedly fallen far short of the democratic standards we hold in both the U.S. and the West. Police in Israel have suppressed and attacked anti-war demonstrators and the Netanyahu government has taken steps to remove the sole democratic checks on his power. The current coalition government, which includes far-right and ultranationalist parties, bears a striking similarity to the forces that propelled Trump to the presidency.
Make no mistake: Extreme damage has already been done. But the Biden Administration can still change tack to deliver the logical, pragmatic foreign policy that it promised. The President must immediately call for a comprehensive ceasefire on all sides, not just as the moral course of action to prevent more bloodshed, but for Biden’s own electoral fortunes.
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