The Biden administration, under fire for an increasingly unpopular policy of near-unconditional support for the Israeli government as it indiscriminately bombs civilians in Gaza, has resorted to the transparently desperate measure of claiming credit for keeping a terrible situation from getting even worse. The White House line on the Middle East is that Biden, behind closed doors, has used his close ties with Benjamin Netanyahu to prevent potentially reckless escalation that would have led to an even larger loss of life in Gaza and the outbreak a wider war. Or, as The New York Times reported on Sunday, “Biden’s advisers and allies said his personal involvement has averted a broader war and influenced Israel’s approach, even if not as much as he would hope.”
The problem with such a counterfactual boast is that it is impossible to prove. The reality of what has happened is bad enough to make such claims seem dubious if not ridiculous. As of Thursday, at least 22,000 Palestinians—the majority of whom were civilians—have been killed in Gaza, in addition to the 1,139 Israelis killed by Hamas in the October 7 massacre. According to the United Nations, 85 percent of the population of Gaza has been displaced—and roughly half face starvation. In the face of such horrific suffering, it takes real gall to brag about having moderated Israeli policy.
The claim about staving off a regional war is an even more glaring example of whistling past the graveyard, since the likelihood of a much larger conflict is intensifying by the day. Throughout the region, American and Israeli forces are exchanging fire with a variety of Palestinian and allied groups (which often have Iranian support), including Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthi movement in Yemen, and militias in Syria and Iraq. [Continue reading…]
Ask anyone who’s worked for Biden, and you’ll hear a version of the same description: He listens to dissenting voices, but once he’s made up his mind, he’s almost unshakable.
“One thing I learned quickly,” a former aide told me, “you don’t tell Joe Biden what to say.”
When he is wrong, that stubbornness may be his worst vice. When he’s right, it may be his most useful virtue.
Biden’s stubbornness has helped steer his presidency into some of its deepest potholes. [Continue reading…]