Restraint is a Foreign Policy?

Charles A. Kohlhaas | April 16, 2024
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Suddenly the game changed over the weekend.  Or did it?

The Biden Administration vowed strong support for Israel on October 7. Then, it started backing off, making ridiculous demands that Israel cease fire. Only Israel, not Hamas. Then, Iran launched a major attack on Israel with drones and missiles.  Israel defeated this attack with strong help from the US military, as well as help from the UK, France, Jordan, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia. The Biden Administration helped Israel defend itself.

Now what?

Back to normal. Israel is contemplating a retaliatory strike. The Biden Administration is urging restraint. Biden announced our support for Israel is “ironclad;” the US will always help Israel defend itself, but will not participate in any retaliatory actions. Biden does not want the conflict to spread. News Flash: It already actively involves Israel, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the UK, France, and the US. The American way of war is to say “Don’t” firmly, but to fight only defense. Defense must be all they teach in the military academies. Never try to win. Fight defense until the other side gets in a lucky shot or we get tired and quit. Note Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Vietnam. George Patton’s ghost is weeping. 

The oil markets obviously are pretty sure the Biden Administration will not do much; they are pretty sure Biden will not do anything, so the mullahs can keep making $60-$80 billion a year selling their oil to China and India. (Rumors are - the Bidenites are trying to get Ukraine to stop bombing Russian refineries, one of their most effective tactics – these people would sell their children to keep the US domestic price of gasoline from increasing before the election). The Israelis could take out some Iranian oil export facilities and not only crunch the Ayatollahs’ financing, but also help get rid of Biden. 

The Ukrainians cannot help but notice Israel got air defense help and they get none. An Israel support bill is being rushed through Congress this week, but no support for Ukraine.  It is spring in Ukraine and about time for the Russians to mount an offensive. The Ukrainians are about out of ammunition; without re-supply they are done. The Biden Administration promised support to Ukraine, which it provided - just slow and not enough. More restraint and Do Not Win as foreign policy. Obviously, the Biden Administration cannot deal with two problems at the same time; Russia and China are taking notes.   

We knew we had a problem in the early Biden Administration when its Secretary of State sat in a meeting in Anchorage and listened to Chinese representatives berate him and his country, on US soil, for well over an hour.  Aptly named Blinken, he just sat there looking like a deer in the headlights.  

Now a big question is: what will NATO do about the Russian threat, or any others, and why should we care? NATO had a big wake-up call from Ukraine. They are smart enough to realize they are on the dinner menu, if Ukraine becomes Putin’s lunch. So, they wonder what to do about it. Typically, they wring their hands until the US takes action, so they can complain about it. Now, they are worried about Trump getting elected and losing US support. Guess what?  They should wake up and step up. US support is available, if they take on the economic and political commitments necessary to assume some responsibility for their own defense. Read the NATO founding and funding agreement. Either step up or learn Russian. Trump’s message is not that we want to abandon you; it is that we shall not be suckered any more – do what you agreed to do for your own sake. A deal is a deal. He is a business man, not a politician, and he respects that rule and expects others to do the same. Step up, and a Trump-led US will back you up. If you don’t, we won’t, simple as that.  

It is worth remembering, at this point, that only once has a NATO nation been attacked and Article 5 of the NATO Agreement invoked and other NATO nations joined in response with troops on the ground. That was the September 11, 2001 attack by Islamic terrorists on the US.  Several NATO nations joined in the Afghanistan campaign to defeat Al-Qaeda and establish a stable government. They stayed with us for years, and years. They incurred casualties. I watched a memorial service for dead Canadians who served with us.  When Biden summarily pulled out of Afghanistan, he didn’t even have the courtesy or sense of responsibility to tell our allies we were leaving. They were there because of us and he just left them swinging in the wind. 

The Biden Administration could be accused of being run by amateurs. I think not. It is run by professional political manipulators with no moral or historical basis for policy decisions. It lurches from one political breeze to the next. Inevitably, this leads to a foreign policy that fulfills Bernard Lewis’ evaluation that the US is a treacherous friend and a harmless enemy.