By Corey Gustafson
Corey Gustafson is a university lecturer in American Foreign Policy, cofounder of Dogleg Brewing, and former Republican congressional candidate
In the complicated realm of geopolitics, events often cloud national interest. Leaders sometimes forget, or overlook, that their primary responsibility remains to serve their citizens. The art of statesmanship requires leaders to keep their moral compass while anchoring decisions in the principled pursuit of national security.
In response to Hamas’ barbaric attack on Israel, the Biden Administration and mainstream media have focused almost entirely on the loss of innocent Israeli and Palestinian lives. While tragic, this narrative has thus far missed the larger priority for America – Hamas not only attacked Israel, but it also assailed America.
Current estimates list thirty Americans killed and thirteen unaccounted for, presumably held hostage, after Hamas’ October 7th attack. To put that in perspective, this represents the third deadliest terrorist attack on American civilians by Islamic fundamentalists since 9/11. While the United States has rightly shown support and solidarity with Israel at this time, it has largely neglected America’s interest in this fight.
Hamas murdered Americans. America must respond.
A nation’s highest duty remains to protect its citizens and interests. Attacks on Americans can never be shrugged off as collateral damage. We should have no debate whatsoever on this policy. We must consider all appropriate options, including economic, political, and military countermeasures.
As a superpower, America cannot just provide military aid and leave the fighting to its friends. By refusing to respond itself, American adversaries take notice. America’s lack of military will ultimately invite international recidivism. Inaction is a form of action, and changes the calculus of an enemy that wishes to continue to do us harm.
America cannot deter Russian, Iranian, and Chinese aggression by merely serving as a free weapons depot. The courage shown by Ukrainians and Israelis will not stop this new Axis of Evil. That Axis has probed our responses and defenses by extension, and we have been found wanting. Only American strength, determination, resolve and military prowess will prevent future aggression.
In our current political debate, many make the mistake that American intervention on behalf of its interests escalates conflict. When executed correctly with an attainable objective in mind, it may be the only way to deter aggression and deescalate tension.
General HR McMaster, President Trump’s first national security advisor, once calculated that the effectiveness of a nation’s deterrent power is strength times will.
Under the Biden administration, America’s will is not respected. The world does not believe America is in the business of winning wars anymore. Although the American military continues to be the most powerful in the history of the world, President Biden’s weakness has negated America’s military superiority.
Imagine Putin, Xi, or the mullahs of Iran watching President Biden. Would his bumbling interview on the October 16th edition of 60 Minutes lead any of them to believe that he was capable of directing an American military response? When asked by Scott Pelly about his message to Iran, Biden barely worked up the energy to weakly beg, “Don’t, Don’t, Don’t.”
The problem? Iran already did. And continues to do so. Their proxies have now attacked American bases in Syria and Iraq, let alone provide shaped charges that took American lives during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The evidence that Iran supports Hamas and Hezbollah continues to mount. Danielle Pletka, in Foreign Policy, laid out a comprehensive case for Iran’s role in Hamas’ attack:
A spokesperson for Hamas told the BBC that it had received support from Iran, as well as other unnamed sources, for the attack—an attack that Iran has since publicly praised. The Wall Street Journal also reported on Sunday that, according to senior members of Hamas and Hezbollah, officers of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) “had worked with Hamas since August to devise the air, land and sea incursions” that took place in the attack and that Iranian security officials “gave the green light for the assault at a meeting in Beirut last Monday.”
The Hamas October 7th attack on Israel and the US could not have succeeded without Iran’s financial aid, training and logistical support. President Biden’s reluctance to accept this truth undermines his entire Iranian policy.
Since Biden stepped into the Oval Office, Iran has attacked US troops 83 times.
Despite all the evidence, the Biden administration has yet to refreeze six billion dollars they gave to Iran in exchange for American hostages, refuses to reimpose oil sanctions to cut off Iranian oil sales to China (over $30 billion a year), and continues to try to renegotiate the Obama’s 2015 failed nuclear deal—The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Iran recognized that Russia’s nuclear deterrent saved them from increased US and European intervention following their invasion of Ukraine. The security of achieving nuclear status far outweighs anything the West can guarantee the Iranian regime. In addition, the heinous attack on Israeli civilians should remind us of the horror that will follow Iran achieving its nuclear ambition on a much wider scale. We image nuclear weapons being delivered by missiles, but isn’t using Hamas as a delivery system cheaper? And without countermeasures?
President Biden makes the typical liberal error by attempting to negotiate through appeasement rather than strength. His allies and defenders try to defend Biden by suggesting that his support of Ukraine through military aid and economic sanctions showed his resolve to stand up to aggressors like Putin.
Unfortunately, that completely misreads Biden’s record.
Biden’s surrender in Afghanistan and unmitigated disaster of a withdrawal painted a clear picture for America’s enemies around the world: It is open hunting season on our allies. Moreover, the message sent by the Obama-Biden administration in 2014 when Putin took Crimea with impunity likely encouraged him to invade Ukraine in 2022 during the Biden-Harris administration. The Kremlin’s calculus: They did not stop us then, why would they stop us now?
Weakness provokes and attracts conflict. It forces nations into conflicts that could have been avoided through the projection of strength. The bloodshed in Israel and Ukraine is linked with Biden’s policies of appeasement and surrender.
In contrast, America’s enemies did not advance during President Trump’s time in office. Trump instinctively understood that dictators and terrorists only understand messages of strength and determination.
Trump warned Kim Jong-un that if he even considered attacking the United States, his aggression would be “met with fire and fury, like the world has never seen.” Instead of escalating tensions, the clear message drove Kim to the negotiation table.
However, bellicose rhetoric by itself will not deter aggression. If adversaries view American rhetoric as empty, they will ignore American warnings. President Trump backed his rhetoric with effective strategic actions like heavily bombing ISIS, killing Iranian General Soleimani, and countering China through tariffs. These measures made our adversaries think that there would be a consequence to attacking America and its interests.
Hopefully, President Biden will learn from President Trump’s policy of deterrence and strength and change course, much like his reversal regarding border wall funding.
The world has reached a dangerous inflection point. History shows global conflicts do not begin overnight. They become global though a series of conflicts, linking interests and aggression by weaker powers seeking dominance.
The actions of this administration over the past two years have finally given us a Biden doctrine: America Last. We are last to recognize the costs to our citizens of a chaotic and unsecured border; we are last to recognize that our energy independence requires more oil drilling and the building of the Keystone pipeline; we surrendered in Afghanistan, Iran’s proxy war’s against us in Iraq and Syria, and we have buckled, ultimately costing American jobs, by failing to stand up to China on trade. On the domestic side, inflation, high interest rates, out of control crime and massive debt damages America and its citizens at home. The President of the United States has a job to defend and protect the American people. So far, Joe Biden has failed his constituents in his constitutional duty: to preserve and protect American interests at home and abroad.
At long last, can we work together to reverse this trend in 2024 by electing a President with American interests at heart, with policies that put America first instead of last? Time and our own choices will tell.
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