By Patrick Lawrence / Original to ScheerPost
The new wave of violence in Israel and Gaza now enters its second month. More than 10,000 people have been killed, The Associated Press reports, 40 percent of them children. Where is this catastrophe going? What are the limits of Israel’s inhumanity? Does the Biden regime, in its unforgivable support and encouragement of this ethnic-cleansing operation, have another Frankenstein on its hands—a monster it cannot control?
There is the Ukraine case, a contrast as we consider this question. Volodymyr Zelensky is pure cartoon creation—the greatest put-up job of our century, posing as a defender of democratic freedom while running a crypto–Nazi regime and, along with his generals and ministers, stealing hundreds of millions of dollars. But Ukraine—weak, broke, and losing the proxy war against Russia—is easily managed. Biden could unplug the electrodes from Zelensky’s temples any time he chose to do so. He won’t, but he could.
It starts to look as if Biden and his foreign policy people have lost what control they may have had over Bibi Netanyahu and the fanatical regime he directs. Last week Antony Blinken, on his second trip to Israel since the Hamas assault on southern Israel October 7, asked the Israeli prime minister to “pause”—we must not propose a ceasefire—Israel’s daily bombing campaign up and down the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu refused the American secretary of state more or less point blank. Ask yourself: Who was in charge of that meeting, who was running the show? I have to say, Blinken does come over as a diplomatic pipsqueak time and time again, as he did last summer in Beijing, when the Chinese leadership actually scolded him before sending him home with nothing but lectures to show for his effort.
The Biden White House has been making sotto voce requests such as Blinken’s for the past couple of weeks, all to very little avail. Dim and wanting in all subtlety, even Biden, Blinken and the rest of the regime’s national security crew are now aware that Biden’s open-door, open-wallet support for Bibi’s frenzied violence against Palestinians has turned into a political disaster from which it will be difficult to recover. West Asian nations may not stand with Palestinians to the extent one would like to see, but the old client relationships with Washington appear to have been altered more or less permanently.
Support our Independent Journalism — Donate Today!
It all looks so very bad. Last week the Latin Americans began recalling their ambassadors to Tel Aviv, Bolivia going so far as to sever relations, and bravo for the Bolivians. This week Jordan, Bahrain, Turkey, Chad and South Africa followed suit. The Israelis show no sign of giving a damn, but look at the names: America has traditionally counted these nations among its friends (or clients). Now they stand among those treating apartheid Israel as the pariah state it deserves to be called. Think about where this will leave Washington out in the middle distance. It will be another case of U.S. support for South Africa before the apartheid regime gave up the ghost in 1990, or for Rhodesia before it became Zimbabwe 10 years earlier. It will be embarrassing and costly.
There are cracks in the façade at home, too. There are murmurs in Congress that the Israelis have gone too far, although very few have made the daring leap from ineffectually suggesting a “temporary pause” in the bombing to demanding a ceasefire. Unnamed officials now acknowledge that Israel’s hysterical violence has nothing to do with self-defense and everything to do with preserving the Israeli Defense Force’s reputation for merciless retribution. I read these sorts of admissions as indications of dissatisfaction and disapproval, if not disgust.
The Pentagon appears to be especially restive as the Israeli campaign to ethnic-cleanse Gaza proceeds. Two weeks ago it dispatched senior officers to advise the IDF to reconsider the deadliness of urban combat—the street-to-street, door-to-door stuff. The New York Times has since quoted a senior Defense Department official saying “the operations so far have not come close to destroying Hamas’s senior and middle leadership ranks.” Again, these are voices of bureaucratic protest, in my read.
We cannot leave out the political costs of the Biden White House’s extravagant error, even if ours is a society wherein the popular will is manipulated rather than consulted and rarely heeded in any case. There is an election now one year away, after all, and I am reading opinion surveys indicating the majority of Americans favor humanitarian aid to Gaza rather than military aid to Israel. I read that 300,000 people marched in Washington last weekend. The risk seems clear, then, that Biden’s Israel-über-alles policy—so devoid of imagination, so betraying of his limited intelligence—could jeopardize his chances next November 5. This is not, obviously, a candidate with room to spare for major policy errors, and fielding the Israel–Gaza crisis as Biden has is a very, very major error.
Why are Biden, Blinken and the latter’s colleagues so inflexible on the Israeli–Palestinian question, given the IDF’s atrocious excesses, the obvious inhumanity the White House supports, and the shifts in global, regional, and domestic opinion? The answer to this question is simple and complicated all at once.
Biden is stuck. This is the simple answer. He has—and far from alone is he in this—painted the U.S. into a corner with the Israelis. They know very well Israel is America’s true Frankenstein and that Washington cannot possibly cut the current. Please tone down the violence against innocents, and here is $3.8 billion in annual military aid, and a new $14.3 billion atop it, so you can keep on going: How else are Bibi and his fanatic ministers supposed to read this if not as a license to continue bombing and starving Palestinians?
What we witness as the second month of this atrocity begins, and this is the (slightly) complicated read, is a two-sided, impossibly contradictory policy. The U.S. needs to control a political and public-relations disaster while supporting the savagery that produces the disaster. You would not think anyone charged with the responsibilities of statecraft could be so stupid as to pursue such a course, but this is what we’re watching, no more, no less. These are the same people, let’s not forget, who think they can persuade Americans that they are prospering so long as they get “the messaging” right. If we get the messaging right, people will be O.K. watching a viciously racist nation exterminate another people.
I refer again to the unnamed officials who admit that the Israelis’ Gaza campaign has nothing to do with self-defense. In the same way, American policy toward Israel has nothing to do with protecting Israeli people, “honest brokering,” or any such notion. It has to do with maintaining the imperium’s presence in West Asia—this the objective since at least the 1967 war. In my read we can count this the first, second, third and only priority of the policy cliques in Washington. This is why it is fine that the post–1967 leadership in Tel Aviv has turned Israel into a garrison state just as Harold Lasswell memorably defined this in 1941. The Israelis are “specialists in violence,” precisely as Lasswell used this term. It is what the U.S. wants them to be.
And depends on them to be. The rest—please pause, please use smaller bombs and so on—is merely to trifle pointlessly with a monstrous regime that needs to be unplugged altogether.
TO MY READERS. Independent publications and those who write for them reach a moment that is difficult and full of promise all at once. On one hand, we assume ever greater responsibilities in the face of mainstream media’s mounting derelictions. I take up this very topic in the commentary you have just read. On the other, we have found no sustaining revenue model and so must turn directly to our readers for support. I am committed to independent journalism for the duration: I see no other future for American media. But the path grows steeper, and as it does I need your help. This grows urgent now. If you are already a supporter, big thanks. If you aren’t, please, to sustain my continued contributions to ScheerPost and in recognition of the commitment to independent journalism I share with this superb publication, join in by subscribing to The Floutist, or via my Patreon account.
Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a media critic, essayist, author and lecturer. His most recent book is Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century. His web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site. His Twitter account, @thefloutist, has been permanently censored without explanation.