Ben Clerkin

Biden’s blunders upset all sides

While polls show the majority of Americans agree with Israel’s war aims, many in the Democratic Party vehemently do not


DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 14: U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at the North American International Auto Show on September 14, 2022 in Detroit, Michigan. Biden announced a $900 million investment in electric vehicle infrastructure on the national highway system in 35 states. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

February 15, 2024 16:05

Joe Biden has performed that remarkable political feat of infuriating everyone.

Of choosing not just the wrong side of the argument, but somehow the wrong sides.

Addressing the nation and calling Israel’s response to Hamas “over the top” served to not only anger US supporters of Israel, but also opponents who feel the words and his administration’s change in approach are too little, too late.

Biden, failing to heed the advice of Abraham Lincoln, appears to be trying to swap horses midstream.

It’s a strategy born of attempting to juggle the wildly divergent twin-track pressures of the country and his party.

While polls show the majority of Americans agree with Israel’s war aims, many in the Democratic Party vehemently do not. And they are winning the argument in the White House.

Nowhere is that change of tack more noticeable than in Michigan, a must-win state for Biden and one whose sizable Arab-American community has fallen out of love with him.

But Michigan has exposed the flaws in his apparent new strategy.

The White House enraged Jewish groups last week by sending aides to Michigan to meet, among others, an activist who was reported to have praised Hezbollah and claimed the US government was “bought” by the “Zionist lobby”.

And the White House also angered activists it reached out to. They called Biden “hypocritical” after his aides privately told them that he had made mistakes on Israel but refused to make the same admissions in public.

Some in his own party want him to believe that his presidency has echoes of the 1960s when Richard Nixon was propelled into office after an outpouring of bitterness and protest against Lyndon B Johnson’s escalation of the Vietnam War. College campuses are, after all, once again gripped by protest. They say, combined with his age and obviously declining mental acuity, he should do the decent thing and stand down at the Democratic National Convention in August.

It’s virtually impossible that he’ll be forced out.

Kamala Harris won’t be the first between now and then to pronounce themselves “ready to serve”.

But Biden, like Lincoln in 1864, is telling his party not to change horses midstream. To have faith in him.

It’s advice he hasn’t taken himself. By switching allegiances he is alienating all sides on Israel and risks seeing his hopes of a second term drift away.​

‘The greatest test’

l The Israel-Hamas conflict is the “greatest test of the Western way of war that’s ever happened”, America’s leading urban warfare expert tells me.

It has led US military leaders to conclude that social media will play a critical role in America’s next war, John Spencer, chair of urban warfare studies at the Modern War Institute at West Point says.

While Israel has done more than any other nation in history to reduce deaths, he explains, Hamas has whittled away at its worldwide support by weaponising disinformation on social media. US and Western militaries are concerned that their next enemy will use the Hamas playbook of inflating deaths and encouraging false genocide claims at the International Criminal Court.

“What Israel is fighting is the greatest test of the Western way of war that’s ever happened because it’s testing all the laws of armed conflict, but also the perception of wars,” Mr Spencer tells me.

“Israel is a military who follows the law of war, there is no such thing as a bloodless war, but there’s some global perception that they’re being intentionally genocidal.

“Because of the social media aspect and ability to influence public opinion in real time, Israel and the Western way of war is being put to the test.

“All wars are a contest of will and Hamas is trying to defeat the international will by giving a false perception of what Israel is doing.

“The US and all militaries of the world are learning to incorporate the unique precautions that Israel has taken to prevent civilian harm, but also to contest the perception of what they’re doing. It has never been so immediate that a military is being accused of things like genocide in the midst of the battle, using information that is not verified, not accurate.

“No military has ever handed out their maps of how they’re controlling their forces.

“It not only tells the civilians that they need to leave an area, but it tells the enemy they need to get out too.

“They actually have soldiers whose only job during the battle is to call the imams, call the local leaders, and urge them to help to evacuate the areas along safe corridors, which is unique.”

February 15, 2024 16:05

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