Commentary on Political Economy

Thursday 2 November 2023


Biden Needs a New Foreign-Policy Team


It was a painful realization, but one that was past due. The left’s anti-Semitism doesn’t get the headlines of neo-Nazis with torches, but is more dangerous because it take subtler forms.

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Those who won’t go as far as endorsing Hamas’s terror attacks will tell you Hamas doesn’t represent Gaza. Then why are they protesting Israel, and not Hamas, which started this war? Why hasn’t the Palestinian Authority condemned the genocidal crimes of Hamas, its sworn enemy?

At a rally in Istanbul on Oct. 28, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Hamas “freedom fighters” and Israel a “war criminal.” Like many other autocrats, Mr. Erdogan sees conflict as a way to distract his people from economic hardship and his domestic failures. That’s especially easy when Israel is involved, which is why the last thing the region’s Muslim leaders want is a peaceful resolution to the Palestinian problem.

Moscow hosts Hamas delegations and boasts that Russians taken hostage in Gaza are getting favorable treatment. China’s Baidu web service erased Israel’s name from its online maps, an ominous echo of Islamist threats to wipe Israel from the map.

This synchronized surge of anti-Israel sentiment and Hamas’s ability to wage such a war are symptoms of a failure in American global leadership.

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Over the past three years, the Biden administration has blundered from one geopolitical disaster to another. Messrs. Burns and Sullivan lost Afghanistan, bungled the withdrawal, and then abandoned Ukraine to Russia—saved only by Volodymyr Zelensky’s heroic stand in Kyiv.

Now, they have been outplayed by Iran as well. In September, the U.S. agreed to pay Iran more than $6 billion to release five American hostages. Smirking all the way to the bank, the ayatollah’s ministers finalized their plans for the biggest victory of all, one they never cease discussing: the destruction of the state of Israel.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan at the White House, Oct.10. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Amid this new humiliation, Mr. Sullivan declared peace for our time in Foreign Affairs magazine. After Iran and its Hamas proxies refuted Mr. Sullivan’s ignorance with the blood of 1,400 Israelis, he edited his essay for the online edition, which had a later deadline.

The reason Messrs. Burns and Sullivan have been wrong so often is because they still fail to realize that we are at war—a single war against dictatorships and terrorists. Just as Russia’s armies began to lose ground in Ukraine, Hamas attacked Israel, and Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro prepared a referendum asserting territorial claims over a large part of neighboring Guyana.

I believe in coincidences, but I also believe in the KGB. Until we defeat Vladimir Putin, he will continue to open up more fronts in his war against America and the global world order it leads, siphoning attention and resources from Ukraine.

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Already, Mr. Putin’s allies in the Republican Party, such as Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, have declared their intent to undermine support for Ukraine, which would have disastrous consequences for Israel and other U.S. allies.

The Biden administration’s waiting game has had grave consequences. Had the U.S. provided Ukraine with ATACMS, F-16s, and tanks from day one, it could have destroyed Russia’s armies in the field and won the war before Russian forces became entrenched.

But Messrs. Burns and Sullivan feared the potential chaos of Russian defeat more than they feared Ukraine’s destruction. Now, two years and half a million casualties later, Russia has dug in deep, and every Ukrainian advance will come at a high price.

Decisive early intervention would also have warned every other dictator that the U.S. wasn’t a paper tiger. America’s hapless deal makers are getting what they most feared anyway: emboldened dictatorships and spreading chaos.

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Mr. Putin still wages war and his cronies attack the global order from Niger to the Nile and from Belarus to Venezuela. Iran’s foreign minister comes to New York City and threatens the lives of American citizens. China prepares to invade Taiwan, waiting for the right moment to strike.

Enough is enough. President Biden must fire Messrs. Burns and Sullivan and select a new foreign-policy team that understands the concept of deterrence. Then leaders like Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin—who acknowledges that we are at war—can finally give our allies the support they need.

It’s war, stupid. And like Israel, Ukraine deserves to win, not merely survive.

For Mr. Putin, Xi Jinping, Mr. Maduro and the ayatollah, this war isn’t optional. The only way these men can cling to power is by blaming their failures on the free world. There can be no de-escalation that doesn’t include defeating them, because for them, the conflict itself is the point.

Whether fighting anti-Semitism at home or standing up to terror and invasion abroad, America’s leaders and the American people must realize their way of life is under attack. You can lose a war you refuse to acknowledge exists. In fact, you are sure to.

Mr. Kasparov is chairman of the Renew Democracy Initiative and a co-founder of the Russian Action Committee.

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