This past weekend saw the publication of a disturbing report from Axios, following a phone call between Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Israeli counterpart. According to unnamed sources, the outlet reports, there are growing fears within the Biden administration that the Israeli government wants to provoke Hezbollah into starting a wider regional war that would envelop Lebanon and other nearby countries, as well as the United States, notes ‘The Responsible Statecraft’.
It’s a powerful reminder that the Biden administration’s current policy of unconditional support for the Israeli government’s war on Gaza carries with it no upsides and only downsides in regards to U.S. interests.
Avoiding another Middle Eastern war is a core priority for President Joe Biden, who both campaigned on ending “forever wars,” and has expressed concern about the U.S. capacity for a future military confrontation with China.
Short of a full-blown war, Washington’s support for the war is already leading to U.S. casualties. As of Monday, U.S. and coalition forces have suffered at least 52 attacks since October 17, injuring 56 troops in Iraq and Syria. In a classic case of tit-for-tat, four of those attacks took place this past Sunday alone in response to U.S. airstrikes on Iran-linked facilities, which were themselves a response to earlier militia attacks on American targets in the region over Washington’s backing for Israel.
There are few greater interests of a nation than ensuring the safety and security of its citizens. The Biden administration certainly thinks so, since it has repeatedly invoked the U.S. citizens taken as hostages by Hamas and made clear the importance it places on their safe return. Yet U.S. citizens remain trapped in Gaza, their lives threatened by not just Israel’s relentless bombing campaign, but by the siege that has created a devastating humanitarian crisis in the territory.
The longer the war goes on, the bigger the risk to these Americans’ lives.
At the same time, administration officials are already warning the war is going to inflame terrorism, the very thing the United States spent the past two decades, thousands of lives, and trillions of dollars trying to combat. The U.S. State Department issued an alert early on in the war that there was an increased “potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations or violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests.”
Similar warnings abound. The Department of Homeland Security has cautioned that the United States is “in a heightened threat environment” as a result of the war. FBI Director Chris Wray told Congress that “multiple foreign terrorist organizations have called for attacks against Americans and the West,” and that “the ongoing war in the Middle East has raised the threat of an attack against Americans in the United States to a whole ‘nother level.”
Meanwhile, the war is doing profound reputational damage to the United States, according to both officials from the region and inside the administration itself. A diplomatic cable obtained by CNN stated that U.S. diplomats in Arab countries had warned the White House National Security Council, CIA, and FBI that Biden’s support for the war “is losing us Arab publics for a generation.”