Why Is Biden Signaling America Will Abandon Israel in Lebanon?

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs makes either a serious blunder — or an intentional move against Israel.

AP/Hassan Ammar, file
Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon, May 21, 2023. AP/Hassan Ammar, file

The statement by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs warning that America will not be able to help Israel in the gathering war with Hezbollah is a shocking blunder. It was made in a press conference today in Africa by General C.Q. Brown of the Air Force. He said that America “won’t likely be able to help Israel defend itself against a broader Hezbollah war as well as it helped Israel fight off an Iranian barrage of missiles and drones in April.”

What in the world was he thinking? It’s hard to imagine such a statement being taken in Tehran as anything but an invitation to attack. It could yet rank with such blunders as Secretary of State Acheson’s suggestion in 1950 that Korea was beyond America’s so-called defense perimeter. Or Ambassador April Glaspie’s suggestion to Saddam Hussein in 1990 that America wasn’t taking sides in the Arab-Arab wars.

In both those cases, the perception of American equivocation led to disaster. In the case of Acheson, he omitted to include the Korean peninsula in remarks at the National Press Club about American defense priorities in Asia. Just six months later, North Korean forces streamed south over the 38th parallel. It was the start of a war that claimed some 37,000 Americans. Eisenhower called Acheson’s speech a “mistake” that seemed to give a green light for the attack.

Forty years later, when the Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein was eyeing an attack on Kuwait, Washington’s envoy at Baghdad, Ms. Glaspie, gave him “little reason to fear a forceful American response if his troops invaded the country,” the Times reported. ”We have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait,” she reportedly told Hussein. “We hope you can solve this problem using any suitable methods.”

That was hardly the message of deterrence Hussein deserved to hear at the time. As for today’s message from General Brown, he couched his caution not as a matter of policy or national will, but of technological limitations. “It is harder to fend off the shorter-range rockets that Hezbollah fires routinely across the border into Israel,” he reportedly warned. That’s in contrast with the hundreds of long-range missiles Iran fired in April against Israel.

Even so, the general’s words come at a time when — in part for reasons of political expediency — President Biden is trying to restrain Israel from defending itself from its enemies. These include the Hamas terrorists who are hunkered down in Gaza as well as the Iranian cat’s-paws who lurk in Lebanon under the flag of Hezbollah. These terrorists, our Benny Avni reports, are escalating their attacks, creating an unsustainable situation on the border.

“The intense phase of the war is about to end in Rafah,” Prime Minister Netanyahu says. At which point Israel’s military “will face north.” Is General Brown trying to discourage Israel from moving against Hezbollah? The example of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, when Israel sought to expel the Palestine Liberation Organization, looms as a cautionary tale. It began promisingly but ended up in a retreat, in part because of American pressure.

Critics contend the 1982 invasion ended up strengthening Israel’s enemies. Certainly it failed to end the threats to Israel from across its border. The most recent war in Lebanon ended in 2006 with a United Nations-backed cease-fire that was supposed to ensure, alongside the Lebanese army, that no armed militias are deployed south of Lebanon’s Litani River, just 18 miles north of the Israeli border. 

Typical United Nations perfidy. Soon after the cease-fire, well-armed Hezbollah forces set up camp — read fortifications — right next to the UN peacekeepers’s positions on the border. No wonder Israelis are leery of any diplomatic guarantees, which they know its enemies are bound to violate. Hence the importance of America affirming its support for its Mideast ally in the face of any threats, lest Iran get ideas about “using any suitable methods.”

The New York Sun

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