What is Joe Biden waiting for?


Supposedly, the Biden administration has been sitting on a range of options designed to restore stability in the Red Sea since at least mid December. In the interim, the Houthi militia group in Yemen has conveyed just how seriously they take Washington’s threats. Like so many of the Shia terrorist organizations Iran sponsors, the so-called Ansar Allah terrorist organization has rained rockets and drones on Western civilian and military targets since the 10/7 massacre. Unlike other Iran-backed groups, however, they’ve faced few consequences for their provocations.

For months, the Houthis have compelled U.S. naval assets and those of their allies to engage in defensive operations near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait — intercepting drones and rockets before they struck their targets. But the Houthis’s attacks on commercial shipping vessels have not abated. The terror group all but shut down the vital Suez Canal over two weeks ago with relative impunity.

Over the weekend, American officials announced that those defensive operations had reached a new level of intensity after helicopters from two U.S. warships engaged “Iranian-backed Houthi small boats” during what has become a routine Houthi attack on a Maersk container ship, killing at least ten operatives from the terrorist sect and sinking their vessels. But the White House cannot expect these restrained displays to restore deterrence in the Strait. So, what, exactly, is staying Biden’s hand from executing offensive operations against targets from which the Houthis launch these dangerous assaults on the U.S.-led maritime navigation regime?

Over the weekend, the New York Times confirmed disturbing reports in Western news outlets alleging that the Biden administration’s apoplexy is an outgrowth of its sensitivity toward the politics of the Arabian Peninsula, but with a new twist. Previously, the White House’s failure to intervene in the conflict was attributed to the desire among administration officials to avoid being seen as ratifying Saudi Arabia’s conduct in its campaign against the Ansar Allah terrorist group. Such an intervention risks putting an end to the administration’s ill-considered efforts to anathematize Riyadh. Now, however, the Times claims that the administration’s aversion toward offensive operations is, in fact, an act of deference to the Saudis, who want nothing more than to craft a durable settlement to the conflict in Yemen. Moreover, getting punched in the face is exactly what the Houthis want.

“The idea is not to engulf the region in a wider war, but rather to use the tools available to us to encourage the Houthis to dial back their reckless behavior,” Tim Lenderking, the U.S. special envoy for Yemen, told Times reporters. Adam Clements, a former U.S. Army attaché for Yemen, echoed those sentiments. “The Iran-Houthi relationship greatly benefits from conflict,” he observed, “so why create more?”

What a craven refrain. And a familiar one, at that. Americans are often lectured to by White House officials who resent the responsibilities associated with preserving U.S. geopolitical hegemony. To justify their indisposition, they insist that attacking the enemies of that global covenant is exactly what those enemies want.

“Terrorism is all about over-reaction, provoking an over-reaction,” said State Department counter-terrorism coordinator Daniel Benjamin in 2015 as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria achieved the apex of its power. Attacking the self-described Caliphate directly risked “backfiring by feeding the group’s apocalyptic narrative that it is defending Islam against an assault by the West and its authoritarian Arab allies,” according to regional experts. Indeed, strikes on ISIS could beget “more mass casualty attacks in Europe and North America.” All told, those who called for direct attacks on ISIS in response to its campaign of genocidal terrorism were deeply “misguided.”

Utter drivel. The effort to retrofit a rationale onto the Obama administration’s pathological apprehension toward engaging threats in the Middle East was an obvious exercise in misdirection even at the time. It’s only marginally more irritating that Obama’s allies retailed his reluctance as a species of enlightenment beyond the reach of mere mortals. It was all nonsense. If what ISIS really wanted was for its caliphate to be aggressively dismantled, that’s exactly what it got. Likewise, if neutralizing the Houthis’s capacity to project force into the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden is exactly what its Iranian sponsors want, who are we to deny this?

The theory that presupposes what foreign terrorist organizations really want is to draw the targets of their attacks into quagmires, thereby radicalizing their otherwise tacit sympathizers all over the globe, involves many untested assumptions and includes a lot of moving parts. By contrast, the compelling power of precision-guided ordnance is far less complex. Restoring stability in the Red Sea by raising the costs of the Houthis’s provocations relative to their benefits — which, today, are nothing less than crippling global commerce — is not unsophisticated or thoughtless. That is how deterrence is established and maintained. If what Iran and the Houthis want is to find themselves on the receiving end of American ordnance, Joe Biden should give it to them.

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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