War By Affirmative Action?

Victor Davis Hanson
American Greatness

Why does Biden play Iranian poker with American and Israeli lives?

Answer? He envisions war sort of like affirmative action, in which the less accomplished belligerent is allowed all sorts of concessions for the sake of equity.

Israeli and American military capability, and particularly their missile defenses, are seen as unfair, almost like high achievers’ top SAT scores that are seen as unearned and used to privilege some over others and therefore must be countered or dropped.

Given Iran’s and its surrogates’ incompetence, the administration, then, must extend the theocracy some allowances “to level the playing field.” Biden does not believe in an equality of opportunity in war, when an aggressor does its best to attack or indeed destroy a defender, who in turn does its own best to retaliate and achieve victory.

Instead, the Biden administration sees war leading to equality of result as something to be waged “proportionally,” especially when the power attacked is stronger and Western while the attacking aggressor is weaker and non-Western. The method, then, is to restrain the western power and give repeated chances for the non-western aggressors to catch up.

As a result, the Biden administration’s strategic attitude toward Iran ignores Iranian intent and agendas. So it does not respond fully to its acts of aggression and thereby almost rewards the incompetence of Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis without consideration of their murderous aims.

Americans are thus baffled that Biden has not responded to some 170 or more attacks on U.S. installations in the Middle East by Iranian-backed terrorists in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon. But in his calculus, Americans “can take the hit” due to their superior defenses—appeasement that only assures more hits.

Thus, other than a few apparently acceptable wounded or dead, there is no need for disproportionate responses to reestablish deterrence and end such opportunistic attacks. Such calculus in the Biden team’s mind would be “over the top,” perhaps “unfair,” or even “medieval.” And yet, it certainly would stop all such aggression quickly and warn aggressors not to touch a single American.

After the successful but mostly demonstrative Israel April 19 retaliatory strike against the Iranian anti-aircraft missile batteries at Isfahan, Biden cautioned Israel “to take the win” and apparently not to rub in the fact of Iranian incompetence, much less stage a follow-up and much greater response.

But what if instead, Biden had warned the Iranians that Israel was not through. Rather, he would tell the Iranians that the restrained Israeli response was a one-off warning and demonstration to Iran that 1) Israel had the ability to strike and destroy the very protective shield of the nuclear installations at nearby Natanz, and thus Natanz itself and plants like it; 2) that unlike the 320 missile/drone Iranian attack on Israel, even Israel’s tiny response was entirely successful; 3) and that in any future Iranian-envisioned nuclear attack on Israel, Iran’s rockets would likely either fail at launch or in the air (half did so on April, 13), with the remnant having a 99 percent surety of being shot down, while earning a 100 percent surety of a devastating Israel counter-attack with the same sort of weapons that Iran claims it will shortly use.

Would such a warning have been more likely to end the current tit-for-tat, “de-escalatory escalation” than the Biden administration’s advice to Israel to “take the win”–in an endless cycle of supposedly managed violence as Iran and its terrorists seek to get it right and respond commensurately?

Similarly, recently, third-party communications with Iran were disclosed about its earlier April 13 attack on Israel. Apparently, the Turkish third-party emissaries claimed that “Iran informed us in advance of what would happen. Possible developments also came up during the meeting with (Secretary of State Antony) Blinken, and they (the U.S.) conveyed to Iran through us that this reaction must be within certain limits.”

Translated, that meant that apparently launching over 320 cruise, ballistic missiles and drones were acceptable Iranian responses as long as they did not kill too many Jews?

So what did Joe Biden, Antony Blinken, and Jake Sullivan actually define as damage “within certain limits?” Something like the relatively small number of dead and wounded Americans who have fallen victim to Iranian-backed terrorist attacks from the Red Sea to Iraq and Jordan?

“Within certain limits” for Iran certainly could not mean the huge number of lethal projectiles Iran sent into Israel that were intended by Iran to kill thousands, but apparently only how many Israelis were killed by them?

So again, what would have been beyond “certain limits” for team Biden? One dead Israeli for each launched rocket, missile, or drone? 320 Jews or so in total? Did Biden and Blinken assume that some 300 or so projectiles would be mostly shot down or blown up, and thus they played poker with Israeli lives and assumed that the attack would probably fail?

But what might have happened had instead Biden transmitted to Iran the following warning:

“Given your record of unleashing terror and death throughout the Middle East, I warn you not to send a single rocket into Israel. If you do, we will ensure that none get through, but we will not ensure that there will be any limits on what will likely be a devastating Israel response to your homeland.”

Would Iran have then sent the 320 missiles?

When Israel went into Gaza to end the medieval violence perpetrated by the Hamas cowardly terrorists, it had already been the target of some 7,000 Hamas rockets aimed at its civilian centers and bases. Did Biden see that failed Hamas effort to kill thousands of additional Jews as a legitimate cause for Israel to go into Gaza and destroy the rocket-launching Hamas?

Or instead, did Biden consider Israel’s unique ability to conduct war—again, sort of like having high SAT scores and a straight A average as proof of unwarranted privilege in admissions—as a disproportionate (and likely “unfair”) advantage over Hamas that thus should be ignored or discounted rather than admired? But had Hamas killed 1,000 Jews with its 7,000 rockets, would Biden have given Israel the green light to respond fully? Or would it have taken only 500 deaths? Or was the magic number 250 killed?

What would have happened had Biden not specified certain restraints on the IDF but instead, on October 21, transmitted the following message to Hamas: “You began this war with inhuman slaughter on October 7 and massive rocket attacks on Israeli cities, and Israel will now end the war with your destruction.”

Six months later, would the Middle East now be safer without Hamas?

In mid-October 2023, a failed Islamic jihad rocket hit Gaza’s al-Ahli hospital, prompting the blood libel that it was Israelis who supposedly were responsible and had killed hospital patients. An upset Joe Biden was asked about the identification of the perpetrator.

He answered with a joke, but a jest nevertheless quite revealing: “And I’m not suggesting that Hamas deliberately did it either. It’s that old thing; gotta learn how to shoot straight.” Aside from the embarrassing fact that Biden seemed more wary about wrongly blaming the murderous Hamas for the Islamic Jihad rocket than his ally Israel, did he really mean that the global condemnation of Israel for the act of Islamic jihad—and the predicament it put Biden in—would have simply vanished had only Islamic Jihad shot “straight”?

And further translated, did Biden logically mean—if only the Islamic Jihad rocket had not fallen short on Gazans but instead had reached its intended target of civilians inside Israel, then there would have been no controversies, no melodramas, given the stronger power Israel could more easily have “taken the hit?”

Note that Biden did not really express much anger that Islamic Jihad was shooting rockets to kill Jewish civilians. He was only lamenting that its incompetence had led to a blood libel, which required embarrassing explanations from Biden himself.

Biden, note, said something somewhat similar about a possible Putin invasion of Ukraine. He had predicted the U.S. response on whether it was a “minor” offensive or not. In other words, the American response was not predicated on the violation of national borders by an aggressor against an independent nation, but how effectively the aggressor attacked.

In the American Left’s vision of contemporary war, the West brings too many advantages in science, technology, and wealth, especially when fighting in the skies and not in the messy suburbs of Mosul, Fallujah, or Gaza City.

The result is disproportionate. Accordingly, it does not matter that Hamas only stopped butchering, raping, and mutilating Israelis at about 1,200 deaths because of an impending IDF arrival or killed few despite 7,000 rocket launches into Israel, when their rocketeers had sought to kill tens of thousands of Israelis.

Instead, by their very failures at the art of war, Iran and its surrogates are constructed as victims, not aggressors, at the moment when either their targets do not suffer too many causalities or their own losses vastly exceed those whom they sought to slaughter.

Third-party managed proportionality, accompanied by the banality of “both sides are at fault,” is not morality but pretentious amorality—as well as a sure prescription for endless war.

Or, in other words, what is unfolding now in the Middle East.


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34 thoughts on “War By Affirmative Action?”

  1. President Biden worries about equity. I am reminded of something I heard during a lecture from a Special Forces commander. “If at any point in the mission you find yourself in a fair fight, you did not accomplish your pre-mission planning correctly.”

    1. BJ ‘s Lounge Lizard

      As long as illegals keep the violence and murders to within
      “Certain limits”it’s okay by Joe.
      Joe claims we need the 15+ illegals bc of low population growth. If
      any of the Billions of $$$ that are being used to flood the country with unvetted migrants were made available to child bearing aged Americans maybe the
      Birth Rate would increase. And not to the. ‘We already cancelled your college debt’

    2. Reagan stated: “Peace through strength.” Ironic, but true. I submit a lesson learned from Truman.

      We, as I like to think about how true Americans believe, paraphrasing here, “you do you, I’ll do me, and we’ll get along fine.” However, that axiom is juxtaposed with, “your rights end where my nose begins.”

      This is not a threat, but a perspective, about which one assumes, others will, at least, understand and then, abide by. The pair of phrases acts as a kind of clarifying explanation of: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Simple and fair in its premise.

      There is a point, for whatever reason, where patience wanes. Another one of my favorite axioms applies: “sometimes you’ve got to explain it to them.” Japan found out. Stop, irrespective of who started what, when or why, they were warned, TWICE!

      Interesting, strength leads to peace. Not ironic. Even a mother canine swats at the gluttonous, “bully” puppy!? (Hey! I’m not comparing Japan to dogs! I’m making an analogy of strength and authority, please.)

      We will vote Trump in, and he will explain it to everyone, once and for all, and all will be aligned, again, correctly, in the universe. He’s actually the only one who can.

  2. In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king. You sir, are a rarity with both eyes with perfect vision. Your wisdom , I suspect , comes from my perception that you also are an old soul, which probably had something to do with your early fascination with ancient studies.
    Blessings upon you.
    Alan C. Leventen ( Sgt. First Class ret. ) IDF

    1. Mike Burns – please clarify with specifics what “too neocon” means and what it has to do with the article.

  3. Thomas O'Brien

    To underscore your point, the vital importances of deterents, we should remember the circumstances in which the U.S. embassy hostages were released by Iran.

    It occurred while newly elected President Ronald Reagan was taking his oath of office. Before he was done with his oath, it was announced on the news that the hostages were now freed, and in the air, flying home.

    There for all to see, was the difference between the unpredictable Ronald Reagan and the Feckless Jimmy Carter. The Iranians were simply not willing to take the chance of being bombed into oblivion by Reagan.

    1. No sir the Americans held hostage were freed AFTER Reagan was sworn in and the oath completed, i.e., when Reagan was the President. Negotiations by the outgoing administration had indeed been underway but the Americans were wheels up from Tehran after the oath was computed. Best peter huessy .

  4. An interesting interpretation of the actions of Biden and the administration, which otherwise defy definition. Since clearly not everyone in the admin has cognitive decline, (although their getting Biden elected by hook and by crook makes one wonder), some other explanation has to exist. It may come down to either this, or utter systemic incompetence. I’m not sure which worries me more.

  5. The israelie airforce has been unimpeded throughout this conflict. Reaching 400 sorties every single day and or night, no aircraft losses anywhere within the region. That has now been demonstrated inside Iran as well. Isreal can destroy any and all enemy force until it’s air superiority is neutralized, there is nothing more to say.

  6. Great again VDH. No one else puts together the facts and through critical thinking posits a thesis that is brilliant AND unique AND so true. Keep up the good work.

  7. The main question here is ——Does Biden even think at all?????? When he reads off a script and jumps off the tracks he spouts foolishness and lies which require zero thinking just open mouth and let it spout out!!!!!!

    1. I don’t believe it’s possible that Biden is running things, his brain is too addled at this point. His history of ineptitude is well known, and it’s fairly obvious that others behind the scenes are planning and making all the stupid decisions we are witnessing. It’s likely the same group that was in the Obama administration because we see a great many of the same players behind Biden now. The only question is “who” or more likely “which group of people” are in charge. Biden isn’t capable of planning anything, not now and not in the past when he had more of his ignorant marbles firing on all cylinders.

  8. Victor Davis Hanson has become the clearest, most informed and most logically thoughtful observer of contemporary events. He is a cultural treasure.

  9. My son Is graduating this year valedictorian of one of the very best College prep high schools in California and indeed the country.
    His GPA is off the charts as is his SAT score. His extracurricular activities as well as his volunteer hours are equally impressive. His IQ is in the genius category.
    He started his own “Finance & Investing” club as a true freshman bringing in speakers and growing it to a full fledged, mature entity and is now handing the reins over for the next guy to run it.
    His social skills are amazing and he can converse and mingle with anyone.
    He wants to go into business and applied to all the top schools in the country. His backup university was UCLA. He has been wait listed at Georgetown, Penn, NYU, Boston College, Harvard, Columbia, USC, and many others. Believing that he won’t make it off the wait list of any of these schools he has accepted at UCLA. Although we are Catholic, our family last name is very similar to a historically Jewish last name.
    DEI along with antisemitism and affirmative action(gone underground since the Supreme court ruling but alive and well) has stolen his future.
    He is a white male. Hispanic Kids & kids of “color” from his school with barely above average GPS’s and without SAT scores have gotten into schools he could not. Meritocracy is dead. The best & the brightest are being actively excluded and America will pay the price some day as we are out competed. If I sound bitter is because your damned right I am. You should be too.

    1. Indeed, many of us are bitter.

      But not much escapes Mother Nature regardless of whether a part of the wilderness or a folly of mankind. The day when nations that reward and emphasize meritocracy over one that merely wants to “level the playing field” is that bright locomotive light speeding toward us in our tunnel. They already toy with us.

      Hopefully, enough wake up before it is too late but should Biden take the prize in November, the chances of a recovery of the ‘shining house on the hill’ will be slim to none.

    2. Hillsdale, Liberty or some other school that ignores the DEI BS. Their out there and would love to have a student of your son’s caliber.
      PLUS, he will get a better education than these schools that have gone WOKE

    3. Marc Swerdloff

      He was granted a blessing not to go to those indoctrination camps. I worry that UCLA is also a poison pill. Let him take a year off and reapply to Hillsdale or a similar school with a classical education. In the meantime he should found his own company and get ahead on his goals.

  10. VDH frames current events with logic, wisdom, and facts.
    His analysis is the bucket of water Dorthy poured on the Wicked Witch, also known as Biden’s foreign policy.

  11. sdleonard@gmail.com

    At first glance this explanation seems too sick, too absurd even for Joe Biden, and it would never have occurred to me, but I think you’re probably right as usual. It’s hard to comprehend the level of sheer stupidity that is behind almost everything our government has done over the past three years (or, I guess, Biden over the past 50 years). It just seems impossible that they can actually think their actions are helping make anyone’s life better, which begs the question, what in God’s name do they think they’re doing?

  12. It would have been cool to see if the IDF got their orders ”misconstrued,” and they bombed to hell all of Iran’s weaponry and nuke facilities.
    Then Bibi could have ”apologized” to Biden, offered to buy him an ice cream cone, and promised not to do it again.

    Only nine months to go until the garbage trio of Biden, Blinken and Sullivan are outta there. And if the donks win, then the US deserves everything that comes to it in the next four years.

  13. I appreciate your analysis, as always. I would add, however, that “Biden’s” (which is to say, the third Obama administration and its radical anti-American adherents) response was predicated on a demographic as well as philosophic foundation. The demographics are simple: a concentration of adherents of islam in certain urban locales which “Biden” believes are needed to win reelection and which have been specifically imported for that purpose. The philosophical basis springs from that.

  14. Well said VDH.

    It is tragic that this view strikes a clear picture of the woke (and weak) leadership in Washington.

  15. Excellent analogy packed with loads of truth. Joe Biden, in my opinion, represents a danger not only to international peace but to domestic issues as well at home. Biden performance for the past three years has been awful!
    He seems to have no understanding of the balance of world power in terms of keeping peace.
    Have Democrats ever understood the use of military force?

  16. Did Biden’s regime orchestrate this whole ‘war’? It occurred just days after he coincidentally said it might. Hmmmmm.

  17. The Biden* Admin is simply atempting to square a difficult circle. The sympathies of Biden’s* handlers and advisors are clearly with Hamas, yet Biden* cannot plainly express those sympaghies, especially in an election year and alienate voters and (especially jewish) donors who symathize with Israel.

    In the past, Democrat US presidents were able to call for “proprtionality” and use US influence to limit the damage Israel inflicted in response to a given provocation. This dance dominated Israel-palestinian relations for decades, and may have come to an end.

  18. Biden is weak and will not accept strong responses that only make him more insecure. One hope is that he and his admin will be ushered out in Nov.

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