Patterico's Pontifications

5/13/2024

The Biden Administration’s Stupid Middle East Game

Filed under: General — JVW @ 12:54 pm



[guest post by JVW]

The Jerusalem Post had a fantastic piece last Thursday on what they believe the Biden Administration is doing in the Israel-Hamas War. Naturally, it’s infuriating. The author of the piece, retired Israeli professor Gerald M. Steinberg, suggests one idealistic reason for the administration’s betrayal, and one rather sinister reason. First the naïve idealism:

Did Biden suddenly do a 180 degree flip, and if so, why? Were the humanitarian concerns for the innocents in Gaza (as well as the many Hamas supporters who cheered the brutal October 7 slaughter and rape) the reason, as indicated by Secretary of Defense Austin? Or was Team Biden spooked by the campus mobs into caving-in to their demands?

Most likely, the correct answer is “none of the above.” A look at the details suggests a carefully planned strategy, under the heading of a Grand Bargain for the Middle East. This dream scenario has been in the background (and at times, foreground) of Administration policies for months. The essential elements include “irrevocable commitment” to Palestinian statehood and “end of conflict;” large-scale Israeli withdrawal on the West Bank, and a formal Saudi-Israeli peace agreement echoing the Abraham Accords.

And here comes the selfish ulterior motives:

In other words, Biden and Secretary of State Blinken are aiming for the diplomatic equivalent of a moon shot, the Nobel Peace Prize, and, not incidentally, victory in the November elections. The script for redrawing the map was written by Tom Friedman, the veteran New York Times columnist who has been promoting versions of this for decades.

Tom Friedman. Un-frickin’-believable. It comes as no surprise to any of us that U.S. Presidents — and especially Democrat Presidents — place a great deal of prestige in winning a Noble Peace Prize. It’s been pretty well known that Jimmy Carter was deeply disappointed not to have been included in the prize shared by Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat after completing the Camp David accords. Bill Clinton, desperate to salvage a foreign policy legacy in the final months of his desultory Presidency, bullied poor Ehud Barak into accepting more than the Israeli public was willing to countenance then watched as Yasser Arafat walked away from the deal and started the Second Intifada. Barack Obama had the happy fortune to win a Nobel Peace Prize a mere nine months after having been given the key to the Executive Washroom, and spent the next eighty-seven months of his Presidency trying to justify it by pursuing a ridiculous rapprochement with Iran.

So naturally Joe Biden, a man whose foreign policy has thus far been associated with humiliation, weakness, and fecklessness, thinks nothing about further sacrificing American prestige in order to get out from between the rock and a hard place which his vacillating has led him to. I think Professor Steinberg’s evocation of a moon shot is accurate here: the only way this seems to remotely have a chance for success is through a miraculous turn of events in which Israel restrains from finishing off Hamas in Rafa, Hamas itself determines that armed struggle is not a viable way to secure a Palestinian state, both sides agree upon definitive borders and a mutual non-aggression policy, and neighboring Arab states accept a poor and backward Palestinian state on its borders which will be subject to Iranian meddling and which will probably seek to destabilize regional leadership once it gets tired of targeting Jews. None of these seem likely to happen; a confluence of all three is pretty much unfathomable. Prof. Steinberg addresses this fantasy:

The problem (and it is a very big one) is that the entire scenario is built on a foundation of wishful thinking, not history and political realism. Similarly, the triumphant 1993 Oslo “peace” plan was based on the same illusions, and ended in the disaster known as the Second Intifada, in which over 1000 Israelis were murdered in mass bombings, and thousands more died on the Palestinian side. It turned out that Yasser Arafat and the PLO, as well as Hamas leaders never bought into the “shared interests” that were taken for granted by the optimistic Israelis and the Clinton administration.

And in trying to keep Iran and Hezbollah from interfering in this conflict, the administration’s muzzling of the IDF likely has the opposite effect:

Watching closely, Iran and its proxies also see these developments as weakening the IDF’s capability to use its military superiority offensively. And as long as Hezbollah’s terror squads remain in southern Lebanon, the 50,000 or so Israeli civilians that were evacuated from their homes after October 7 will continue to be “displaced.” In Tehran, regime leaders draw strength from the very visible American constraints placed on Israel, including after the Iranian missile attack on the night of April 13. Thus, instead of encouraging restraint and cooperation, as the dream scenario envisions, greater instability and violence are far more likely. As with Oslo, when this happens, Biden, Blinken and the others will be gone.

[. . .]

Israelis, including Netanyahu’s most vocal critics, know that withholding munitions to prevent the IDF from entering Rafah and recognizing a virtual Palestinian state will not end 76 years of Palestinian rejectionism. More likely, the determination to attack Israel will increase, accompanied by Iranian support. The addition of a Saudi-Israeli peace package will not change this reality.

The Biden Administration has glommed on to one of the more witless conceits of the left, that isolating Benjamin Netanyahu will magically clear the way for a “more moderate” Israeli leader to emerge and deal with Hamas and the Palestinian people with a more deft touch, which will in itself somehow end up in a lasting peace deal between the two sides. That is more magical thinking from the usual crew of overambitious but underwhelming twenty-somethings who influence the professional political hacks who in turn tell Joe Biden what he is supposed to believe. But Professor Steinberg reminds us that “peace between Israel and the Palestinians will only come when the expectations overlap with political realism. Until then, Israel, under Netanyahu and whoever comes next, will do what is necessary to defend its citizens.” [Bolded emphasis added by me.]

And this very much should include the eradication of Hamas.

– JVW

29 Responses to “The Biden Administration’s Stupid Middle East Game”

  1. Like Ukraine, good policy badly done.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  2. I’m torn. Is he Merkin Muffley or Chauncey Gardiner?

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  3. Biden, Blinken and the others will be gone.

    As I read this, I thought “Winken, Blinken and Nod.”

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  4. @1

    Like Ukraine, good policy badly done.

    Kevin M (a9545f) — 5/13/2024 @ 1:52 pm

    I’m going to disagree a bit.

    The Biden Administration’s Ukraine policy is “ok-ish“. They do have a lot of faults, starting with being slow out of the gate in getting Ukraine defenses resources to seemingly pressuring Ukraine to refuse to negotiate with Russia. But, all in all, this administration’s continued support should be credited.

    However, all of that could be undermined by how this administration is throwing Israel under the bus.

    whembly (86df54)

  5. The script for redrawing the map was written by Tom Friedman, the veteran New York Times columnist who has been promoting versions of this for decades.

    This is Thomas Friedman’s latest column:

    If Biden is following his advice, or Friedman is channeling Biden, the student isn’t quite learning his lessons. There seems o be some disagreement between them. Maybe it’s merely the fact that the withholding of arms leaked.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/10/opinion/bidens-real-mistake-in-pausing-military-aid-to-israel.html

    …Amos Harel, a veteran military correspondent for Haaretz, quoted a senior Israeli military commander on Friday, who summed up the situation better than I ever could: “The best way to harm Hamas now is by presenting a governmental alternative in Gaza. That’s not happening because the prime minister doesn’t want it. Every week, senior defense officials meet with foreign diplomats and generals. The repeated question is: What the blazes are you trying to achieve now? We don’t have a real answer for them.”

    I think what they’re trying to achieve is the defeat of Hamas, after which they hope some Arab countries will step in to prevent Israeli rule but Netanyahu thinks you can’t rely on what they say now but things will be different after the total demolition of Hamas. What else is it logical to suppose he’s thinking?

    Look at what is already happening as a result, Harel added. The Israeli Army has withdrawn so many of its troops from Gaza, save for the fresh units now surrounding Rafah and holding the central corridor dividing Gaza from north to south, that “Hamas is taking back governance in Gaza by every means,” Harel said. “Hamas’s efforts to restore governance also include the resumption of activity by the sharia courts, municipal services and sanitation departments in the municipalities.”

    If that is what winning looks like in the areas Israel has “liberated,” is it any wonder that Biden is wary of Israel leveling another Gazan city with no plan or partner for what comes next?

    Sammy Finkelman (e0dccb)

  6. Biden, or whoever he’s taking advice from, are probably being steered wrong by some Arab countries.

    n other words, Biden and Secretary of State Blinken are aiming for the diplomatic equivalent of a moon shot, the Nobel Peace Prize, and, not incidentally, victory in the November elections.

    It would only happen in November if, after he implemented his policy practically everyone would agree that ag good thing happened. Otherwise, it doesn’t help him in November and there is no Nobel Peace Prize, etc.

    But you could get a seemingly miraculous turn of events.

    All you have to do is bomb Iran, and not stop, regardless of he Ayatollah does in retaliation until the Ayatollah agrees to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor Khomeini in 1988 figuratively, “swallow poison”- that is, put a complete stop to ALL the wars that Iran is organizing and funding, and break with China and Russia.

    Sammy Finkelman (e0dccb)

  7. * regardless of what the Ayatollah does in retaliation

    Sammy Finkelman (e0dccb)

  8. Here’s another infuriating part: The Biden administration had to know that Hamas was dramatically overstating casualties, particularly of women and children.

    And what are those numbers? Now the UN says about half of its original estimate of women and of children can be disregarded, bringing those totals to about 7,800 and 5,000 respectively. That brings the total number of Palestinian fatalities down by over 11,000, nearly a third of the commonly reported total.

    And that’s not all. The Palestinian statistical agencies are famous for using “under 20” as their marker for separating children and adults. That means among the “children” are likely a number of 18- and 19-year-olds (i.e. not children). Additionally, we know the IDF encounters 16- and 17-year-old militants in the field, meaning a chunk of the “children” are actually combatants. And of course Hamas makes no distinction between combatants and civilians when counting the casualties.

    It’s possible, then—perhaps even likely—that the IDF has achieved a civilian-to-combatant casualty ratio of around 1.5-1, an unheard-of level of precision and civilian protection in urban warfare.

    If that’s the case, it should cause the Biden administration to rethink its hypercritical posture toward Israel. Except—and here’s the bad news—the Biden administration already knew this information. Again: The missing 11,000 or so casualties were largely based, according to Hamas, on media reporting. In other words, rumor—not unidentified corpses. This was not a secret. The Biden administration and the UN were both well aware of Hamas’s method of fabrication. Which means President Biden has been knowingly using false numbers to crucify Israel in the court of public opinion and to justify withholding weapons from our ally during wartime.

    A 1.5 to 1 civilian-to-militant casualty ratio is exceptional for urban guerilla warfare and where the guerillas hide in civilian populations.

    The fog of war is no excuse to use unethical counting methods. And it is no excuse to lie.

    Does anyone feel guilty for what they’ve done here? We’re left with a circus-like cycle of duplicity: Hamas puts out fake numbers, the White House promotes those fabrications, which fuels street protests, which the president uses as an excuse to shift policy against Israel, which incentivizes Hamas to publish more fake numbers, etc. Around and around the blood-libel Ferris Wheel we go.

    Something in the machinery of the White House has come loose. The whole edifice most closely resembles the Boeing planes with faulty bolts that just started falling apart mid-flight. Instead of bringing calm, the Biden team increasingly brings chaos—and seems unwilling or unable to act responsibly. The media that report the Hamas numbers are complicit in transforming America into an erratic actor on the world stage.

    Paul Montagu (d4d407)

  9. I’m going to disagree a bit.

    This differs somewhat from his domestic policies, which are mostly “bad policy, badly done.”

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  10. A 1.5 to 1 civilian-to-militant casualty ratio is exceptional for urban guerilla warfare and where the guerillas hide in civilian populations.

    This number can be improved somewhat by summary war crimes trials for combatants hiding among civilian populations.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  11. Biden now leading in Michigan in latest poll tied in Wisconsin. No electoral votes in Israel. Not all good news for joe. Poll looks like 2016 all over again When voters thought clinton would win and voted for republicans in senate to counter her. Voters now ticket splitting voting for trump and democrat senators running in swing states.

    asset (69019d)

  12. Forgot source Yahoo news. Sorry.

    asset (69019d)

  13. I’m afraid half-measures in the Gaza war won’t accomplish much. Israel should stick to its guns (pun intended), and press forward to achieve the goal of eradicating Hamas.

    That Gazan civilians die is on Hamas for hiding amongst them. If Israel stops now because of collateral damage to civilians, then Hamas will quickly re-group, and a few years down the road it will be Israeli civilians who are killed.

    So, pick your poison. War ain’t pretty. There are no solutions. There are only tradeoffs.

    norcal (dfc55a)

  14. “War is Hell. War is all Hell.”

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  15. I’m afraid half-measures in the Gaza war won’t accomplish much. Israel should stick to its guns (pun intended), and press forward to achieve the goal of eradicating Hamas.

    That Gazan civilians die is on Hamas for hiding amongst them. If Israel stops now because of collateral damage to civilians, then Hamas will quickly re-group, and a few years down the road it will be Israeli civilians who are killed.

    Agreed. And sorry to be so cynical, but if Israel finishes the job in Hamas by, let’s say, the middle of June, then I seriously doubt that anybody but the most rabid hardcore anti-Israel voter is going to mourn for Hamas come November, and 95% of that vote is already going to Biden anyway. But Biden is still going to have to explain why he asked Israel to stand down on the threshold of victory, and it’s going to be a strong reminder to everyone of that man’s predilection for being wrong about every single foreign policy issue.

    JVW (cf959a)

  16. Senator Lindsey Graham on ending the war in Gaza:

    ………..
    “When we were faced with destruction as a nation after Pearl Harbor, fighting the Germans and the Japanese, we decided to end the war by the bombing [of] Hiroshima [and] Nagasaki with nuclear weapons,” Graham said. “That was the right decision.”

    He added, “Give Israel the bombs they need to end the war. They can’t afford to lose.”
    ………….
    “Can I say this?” he asked. “Why is it OK for America to drop two nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end their existential threat war? Why was it OK for us to do that? I thought it was OK.”

    He added, “So, Israel, do whatever you have to do to survive as a Jewish state. Whatever you have to do.”
    …………..

    Rip Murdock (b83512)

  17. That Gazan civilians die is on Hamas for hiding amongst them. If Israel stops now because of collateral damage to civilians, then Hamas will quickly re-group, and a few years down the road it will be Israeli civilians who are killed.

    norcal (dfc55a) — 5/13/2024 @ 6:26 pm

    That’s my argument why Israel shouldn’t release any Palestinian prisoners in exchange for hostages. Israel would only be releasing future terrorists.

    I doubt this war will end this year. There will always be unorganized terrorist reactions to Israel’s reoccupation of Gaza. And Israel will need to reoccupy Gaza with an iron fist for decades.

    Rip Murdock (b83512)

  18. Lindsey Graham should go and do something he likes with a dog and a goat. A girl is far too unlikely for him and a gun too dangerous.

    Before this Harvest Festival pogrom of October 7, 2023, there was the November 3, 1943 Operation Harvest Festival in which Heinrich Himmler killed 45,000 Jews in the space of two days in reaction to prisoner uprisings in the concentration camps, labor camps, and killing centers.

    If the Israelis take that path, which they will not as long as they remember that they are Jews and not Nazis, then the world might not do to them what we did to Hiroshima and Nagasaki but it will consign them to the trash heap of the Middle East in with the Arabs.

    nk (ca7e75)

  19. There are altogether too many dickless, literally and figuratively, on the left and on the right, talking tough about the hardships, and suffering, and deaths of other human beings. Shut up!

    nk (54e6dc)

  20. It’s a war for civilization. The islamists that voted for Hamas will never stop till they are broken completely. Finish the job.

    NJRob (eb56c3)

  21. NJRob (eb56c3) — 5/14/2024 @ 6:25 am

    The islamists that voted for Hamas will never stop till they are broken completely. Finish the job.

    It wasn’t Islamists only who voted for Hamas, and the last time anyone voted for Hamas was in Parliamentary elections on January 26, 2006 when they collected votes because 1) Israel allowed them to run and 2) because they were Islamists they were believed to be not corrupt.

    Hamas runs a dictatorship.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/13/world/europe/secret-hamas-files-palestinians.html

    The documents show that Hamas leaders, despite claiming to represent the people of Gaza, would not tolerate even a whiff of dissent.

    Actually, the New York Times does not understand what a real tyranny looks like. They did in fact tolerate whiffs. A person labeed in one document as one of “the major haters of the Hamas movement.”, was alive and free and interviewed by the New York Times. That wouldn’t happen in Syria. This is maybe because they wanted to concentrate on war, terrorism and war crimes against Israel. but they wanted whiffs to remain whiffs.

    Security officials trailed journalists and people they suspected of immoral behavior. Agents got criticism removed from social media and discussed ways to defame political adversaries. Political protests were viewed as threats to be undermined.

    This was a dictatorship where they were afraid, or the members of the secret police, were afraid to kill Arabs, or at least to document it in their internal records, possibly because, even though Hamas has ruled Gaza for 16 years going on 17 (since June 10-15, 2007) anyone who killed any Arab outside of law or even with some sort of legal process, but for political reasons, may have a fear that Hamas could lose power and one day the tables may be turned or they could be sold out in some kind of a deal with Fatah. Hamas needs or needed money and services (like passports) from the Palestinian Authority to be finaancially viable.

    ,

    Sammy Finkelman (c2c77e)

  22. https://www.jewishpress.com/news/eye-on-palestine/gaza/hamas-will-not-be-able-to-take-over-with-israel-controlling-rafah-aid-deliveries-locals-say/2024/05/13

    Some Gazans told TPS-IL that they believe the Israel Defense Forces will remain for a long time at the border crossing and along the border itself to thwart Hamas weapons smuggling through subterranean tunnels leading into the Sinai.

    “In such a case, there is a serious fear that the aid will not arrive, but on the other hand, maybe now that the IDF controls the aid that comes from Rafah, Hamas will not be able to take over,” one Gazan who found refuge in a hospital told TPS-IL.

    He added, “In a large part of the displaced persons’ tents in the entire area of southern Gaza, the residents can be heard cursing Yahya Sinwar as the one who brought disaster on them. We are now experiencing the greatest nakba in the history of the Palestinian people.”

    Sammy Finkelman (e0dccb)

  23. A 1.5 to 1 civilian-to-militant casualty ratio is exceptional for urban guerilla warfare and where the guerillas hide in civilian populations

    Israel gave an estimate around Sunday in which they said that about 14,000 combatants (terrorists) were killed and 16,000 non-combatants, which would give a ratio of 1.14 to 1. (This total is also lower than the figure Hamas gives, which is near 35,000.)

    This was described by the media somewhat like this: “Israel admits it killed more noncombatants than Hamas fighters, and the United States agrees with that assessment”

    In the meantime the United Nations silently changed some figures.

    On May 6 the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that 9.500 women had been killed and 14,500 children since October 7 but on May 8 they said it was 4,959 women and 7,797 children but the total remained the same. (possibly a partial explanation could be that they still had the same list of names but they were originally double counting female children as both women and children, and now it is adult women, and the definition of a child was lowered from below age 20 to below age 18)

    If somebody reads the stories, it should be clear that most of the civilian deaths occurred early in the war, and some of them are close to being a perfect storm.

    Sammy Finkelman (e0dccb)

  24. https://www.israelnationalnews.com/news/389739

    Former Minister: Bennett wanted to eliminate Sinwar, Chief of Staff stopped it

    Former Minister Haim Ramon says after the deadly axe attack in Elad 2 years ago, then-PM Naftali Bennett wanted to assassinate Hamas leader responsible for October 7. but then-Chief of Staff Kochavi stopped it.

    May 10, 2024, 1:36 PM (GMT+3)

    The title Former Minister is somewhat misleading as he had long since stopped being a minister, and was involved in a personal scandal, but he is describing something that would be known to other people but perhaps not said much. He also said Kocavi was responsible for the conception that Hamas was deterred.

    Sammy Finkelman (e0dccb)

  25. Preaching to the choir. I don’t know of any poster here who supports a ceasefire until hamas is destroyed including me. The two main groups protesting are muslims who if not citizens should be prosecuted if they don’t peacefully protest. Young progressives latch on to what ever they can especially minorities ;but they will be america’s ruling class as are their anti-vietnam protester parents are now. Teachers here complain that most of the teachers in their schools are progressives and thanks to low pay that wont change as their are more jobs then teachers.

    asset (f70e52)

  26. Not to mention that by making US weapons off limits for use outside Ukrainian borders, the Ukrainians had to watch Russia amass forces in the north and could not hit their fuel, ammunition and collection points. That is not a peace plan, it is not a de-escalation plan. It is a plan that gets Ukrainians killed by invaders of Ukrainian sovereign territory, it is a plan that forced Ukraine to concede entry. Yeah it might make Ukrainians come to the peace table, but for all the wrong reasons.

    Israel is in a hard place. US sentiment is swinging away from them, Europe is 9% muslim now and has always had a significant population of anti semites. Russia is in bed with Israels sworn enemy Iran.
    If I was in charge of Israels war effort against Hamas, I finish them and worry about the repair work later. There will be the same long term forward problems there regardless. Stopping now won’t make them any better, it just leaves Hamas unfinished which is a win for Hamas.

    steveg (1ca2e7)

  27. 23.

    On May 6 the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that 9.500 women had been killed and 14,500 children since October 7 but on May 8 they said it was 4,959 women and 7,797 children but the total remained the same.

    The NYT ran a story which gives an explanation for this.

    They went back to using figures from the Gaza Ministry of Health (which had stopped issuing them when it hit about 11,000 and deferred to the Gazan Government’s Media Office.

    Now they have a list of 24,840 names (as of May 13) plus an estimated other 10,000 killed.

    Sammy Finkelman (e0dccb)

  28. There is no good plan except to get a surrender from Hamas. And no way to do that without Iran’s involvement.

    Sammy Finkelman (e0dccb)

  29. @28 we did it at Iwo Jima so it can be done.

    asset (aa0957)

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