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Biden's Gaza Pier fiasco

The Gaza Pier — you know, the one where the U.S. and allied countries unloaded food, so it could be stolen off trucks before reaching its intended destination — is no longer operational, and it will be out of operation for “at least over a week.” 

It turns out that the pier system was not intended to be used in waters with waves higher than three feet, and three-foot waves occur in that part of the Mediterranean Sea frequently. We know that Pentagon officials can read a weather and surf report. 

Now the question is, did someone in the administration tell them to go ahead with the operation, knowing the risks?

A lot of us figured that Hamas or the Palestinian Islamic Jihad would have targeted the U.S.-built Gaza pier by now. But the wind and the sea got there first; what few of us realized was that the Pentagon built the pier in a location where it would regularly operate at the maximum safe-wave height and wind, and any bout of bad weather could break the structure apart.

Deputy Pentagon press secretary Sabrina Singh had the unfortunate duty of announcing that the Biden administration’s much-touted construction effort to help the Palestinians had broken in several parts and was going to be towed back to Israel for repairs:

On Saturday, May 25th, four U.S. Army vessels supporting the maritime humanitarian aid mission in Gaza were affected by heavy sea states, causing these motorized pier sections, which are used to stabilize the Trident Pier, to break free from their anchors due to a loss in power and subsequently beach ashore.

As of today, one of the Army vessels that was beached on the coast of Israel near Ashkelon has been recovered. The second vessel that was also beached near Ashkelon will be recovered in the next 24 hours, and the remaining two vessels that were beached near the Trident Pier are expected to be recovered in the next 48 hours. Efforts to recover the vessels are underway with the assistance from the Israeli Navy.

In addition, due to high sea states and the North African weather system, earlier today, a portion of the Trident Pier separated from the pier that is currently anchored into the coast of Gaza. As a result, the Trident Pier was damaged and sections of the pier need rebuilding and repairing.

Therefore, over the next 48 hours, the Trident Pier will be removed from its anchored position on the coast and towed back to Ashdod, where U.S. Central Command will conduct repairs. The rebuilding and repairing of the pier will take at least over a week and will — and following completion, will need to be re-anchored to the coast of Gaza. . . .

Think of that Trident pier as having, like, a large T, that top part of the T disconnected. So that has been recovered, but in order to reassemble everything, it’s going to — yep, it’s going to detach from the coastline, move up to Ashdod, be reassembled and then reattached — re-anchored back. . . .

I think unfortunately, we had a perfect storm of high seas states, and then, as I mentioned, this North African weather system also came in at the same time, creating not an optimal environment to operate this JLOTS — this temporary pier.

Look, I can’t predict the weather, but we believe that given the time of year, we will be able to re-anchor this pier and it will be able to be operational, and hopefully, weather conditions won’t hinder it anymore. But we always make assessments based on, you know, environmental factors, and if we need to, you know, adjust, we will. But we hope that it’ll be fully operational with just a little over a week.

But it did not require a “perfect storm” to break apart the pier. CNN reported May 9: “It can only be safely operated in conditions with a maximum of 3-foot waves and winds less than approximately 15 miles per hour, according to a 2006 Naval War College paper on the systems limitations.”

Three-foot waves appear regularly on the Gaza coastline.

More details from that Naval War College paper:

The optimal operating condition for JLOTS is below sea state two as measured on the Pierson-Moskowitz scale. That equates to a wave height of less than three feet and wind speeds at or below 12 knots. JLOTS operations at sea state greater than two must either cease or operate at greatly reduced speeds. . . . Containers being moved via causeway ferries are even more susceptible to changes in sea state. Since these vessels are basically flat barges without protection from waves breaking over the sides, container discharge operations usually must stop at sea states greater than two. On the shore, causeway piers can function up to sea state three (up to a wave height of 4 feet) while receiving rolling stock. Container cargo must be discharged at an ELCAS due to the requirement for a crane.

In the middle of May, Geoff Ziezulewicz of the Navy Times interviewed two retired senior Army officers, a retired senior Navy supply officer, and an active-duty Army officer, who all spent years of their service focused on JLOTS. Many of the officers’ comments previewed the problems the pier has faced:

Trident piers sit just a few feet above the water, and are susceptible to volatile and choppy sea states, the transportation officer said.

Other officers recalled how trident pier missions had to be scrapped because of uncooperative waters in past JLOTS exercises.

The Pentagon said earlier this month that the pier was delayed due to weather, and the retired Army officer said that opposing winds and currents can whip up that stretch of the Mediterranean Sea, but that bad weather passes relatively quickly. . . .

Once onto the ribbon bridge ferry or trident pier, the path back to land is undulating in three dimensions.

“It’s up, it’s down, it’s sideways,” the officer said. “It’s a really dynamic operational environment.”

The pier itself is about 24-feet-wide and “way smaller when you’re driving on it,” the senior officer said.

One section goes one way, while the one ahead goes the other way.

On Monday, May 27, wind and wave conditions exceeded the limits.

The Gaza pier is every bit the disaster we all expected it would be when Biden made the ridiculous proposal in his State of the Union address back in March. . . . This debacle was not only predictable, it was predicted by many.

Now, the Pentagon’s JLOTS guys aren’t stupid. They knew the likelihood that weather conditions would require operations to halt at least temporarily, and the potential risk to equipment and personnel. This is why you’re seeing speculation that the Pentagon prioritized the president’s orders over a reasonable assessment of the risk.

We don’t know who, precisely, came up with the idea to build a pier. Perhaps on some future date, we’ll hear that it was the proposal of national-security adviser Jake Sullivan or Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin or someone else. The buck stops with the president, anyway; he’s the one who authorized the mission.

But . . . come on. The plan was to build a pier on the front door of a war zone, in the absolute minimally acceptable environmental conditions, and hope for the best? That has Joe Biden’s fingerprints all over it.

Biden’s foreign-policy ideas always have this, “Guys, it’s so easy” simplicity to them.

“This would be a good time to send, no strings attached, a check for $200 million to Iran.” We’re going to divide Iraq into three, never mind how past efforts like this resulted in more ethnic violence. We’re going to turn the Saudis into a global pariah. We’re going to turn over the keys to the Afghan army and hope for the best. I’ll keep Bibi in line with my “bear hug” strategy. Putin understands me, I can build a stable and predictable relationship with this guy.

The Washington Post did a profile on Biden’s foreign policy in spring 2023 and concluded, “The moment reflected key elements of Biden’s approach to foreign policy, as he heads into a stretch of his presidency likely to be far more dominated by global affairs: He reacted instinctively, relied heavily on relationships with other world leaders and showed few qualms about departing from a carefully scripted statement.” That is a kind way of saying he doesn’t listen to people who tell him things he doesn’t want to hear, he’s convinced he personally is extremely persuasive to other world leaders, and he often wings it.

This pier proposal seemed to come out of nowhere, days before Biden’s State of the Union Address, when the anti-Israeli protesters on college campuses and on the streets of America’s cities were calling Biden “Genocide Joe.”

If the Gaza pier proposal appears half-baked, hastily assembled, and more driven by political fears than a clear-eyed assessment of the situation on the ground . . . it’s probably because that’s exactly what it is.

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