- Reggie Peralta
Biden Bombs (Both Figuratively and Literally)
Loath as I am to say it, I almost believed something said by Joe Biden on the campaign trail: I didn’t vote for him (like a good capital “L” Libertarian, I voted for the other Jo(e), Jo Jorgensen) but I very nearly fell for it when he said that he was against our country’s “forever wars”. I know it’s absurd given Biden’s record over the nearly 50 years he’s been in Washington, but I assumed that anti-interventionist sentiment was sufficiently in vogue among liberals and the left in general to force him to pander to those elements of his base. And indeed, for a moment it looked like he was, with him scaling back (though not quite ending) US involvement in Saudi Arabia’s barbaric war against its impoverished neighbor Yemen. Yet in the latest of a series of fails and flip flops since taking office, Biden has apparently forgotten (presumably among countless other things) his promise to end the “forever wars” and decided to bomb Syria.
Targeting a coalition of several "Iranian-backed" militias and killing as many as 22 people, the administration justified its strike on two grounds: one, as retaliation for a rocket attack in neighboring Iraq that killed an American military contractor as well as wounded several others, and two, as a defensive measure to prevent similar attacks. This is all covered by the president’s “responsibility to protect United States citizens both at home and abroad and in furtherance of United States national security and foreign policy interests” says the Biden administration, but it overlooks one small thing. That is, our citizens and national security interests wouldn’t be at risk if we weren’t in Iraq in the first place or, failing that, we brought the troops (or contractors, as it were) back home. Unfortunately, that’s not the state of affairs you can expect when you elect people who endorsed getting rid of a tyrannical dictator we once supported and his nonexistent weapons of mass destruction (an effort that Biden, on a totally unrelated note, helped build the threadbare case for) so they could just be replaced by tyrannical terrorists we once supported and who are bent on mass destruction.
As if the situation wasn’t ridiculous enough, let’s take a moment to remember that the stated reason we’re still in Iraq (and tiptoeing into Syria) is to stop ISIS—remember them?—from taking over and establishing a militant Sunni caliphate that will treat women like property, hurl gays off buildings, and kill anyone, Muslim or otherwise, who doesn’t believe what they believe. Horrible stuff for sure, but it makes one wonder why, if ISIS is so obviously terrible, why did we bomb some of the people that have been fighting against them? One of the groups in question, the Shi’ite militia Kataib Hezbollah, even participated in the 2016-17 battle of Mosul, where they were aided by US and Iraqi government air strikes that helped them turn the tide against the terrorists and liberate the city. This isn’t to say that they or any of the other militias hit in the strike are saints, but strictly from a realpolitik perspective, what do we gain from bombing groups defending their homeland against another group that’s bent on massacring them and who, incidentally, we also happen to be bombing?
It does make sense, however, if the goal is to aggravate Iran, which it seems the new administration has picked for the role of evergreen reason to bomb the Middle East that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq once played during the Clinton and Bush presidencies. Provoking the Shi’ite Iranians enough as it is by killing their Iraqi coreligionists and invading their Syrian ally Bashar al-Assad’s airspace, the strike is also perceived by Tehran as part of a wider attempt by the Biden administration to sabotage any return to the nuclear deal scrapped by Trump: Biden insists that he wants to resuscitate the agreement negotiated when he was vice president but seems to be doing everything in his power to kill it now that he's actually president. Between airstrikes on their allies and sanctions on their economy, the theocrats that rule Iran are, sad to say, more than justified in their skepticism about Washington’s commitment to any lasting deal. After all, they probably remember what happened the last time a Middle Eastern dictator voluntarily gave up his pursuit of nuclear weapons in exchange for the West’s friendship.
It’s for this reason that Biden’s splendid little strike (to paraphrase a buddy of Teddy Roosevelt) has earned whoops and hollers from the usual gang of trigger-happy Neanderthals. Fox News even took a break from fearmongering about Mexicans and people who say “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas” long enough to profile Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, and the other born again neoconservatives brave enough to reach across the aisle and praise Biden’s bold decision to kill brown people. For all the “America First” talk of the Trump years, only Rand Paul and a handful of other Republican legislators have spoke out against the strikes, with their criticism lost amidst the neocon noise of regime change and fighting terrorism. Also joining the “big ups to Biden” train is Israel, whose government is reportedly pleased to see that our new president is not an Iran-loving hippie like his old boss. So heartwarming to see that Biden and Bibi were able to overcome their heated disagreement over whether to bomb Iran now or later and mend their decades-long friendship through their shared affinity for bombing Israel’s immediate neighbors!
In a strange but welcome twist of fate though, the people you’d expect to give Biden a pass are not. From progressive firebrands like Ilhan Omar to centrist fuddy-duddies like Tim Kaine, congressional Democrats (with the noteworthy exception of Squad queen AOC, whose silence on this issue is as glaring as it is suspicious) are not happy that their colleague in the White House has decided to bomb that much-benighted part of the world more than it’s already been bombed for the past 30 years without their approval. Kaine has even gone as far to join Republican Todd Young in introducing legislation to repeal past congressional authorizations to use military force in Iraq. It doesn’t touch the open-ended authorization passed in the wake of 9/11 to go after Al Qaeda and used to justify intervention in Afghanistan (and Yemen, and Somalia, and Libya, and Lebanon, and the Philippines…), but it’s a step closer to limiting Biden or any future president’s ability to wage war willy nilly.
What’s the takeaway from this? That there is still anti-war sentiment on the left, and thus reason for hope among anti-interventionists. Libertarians are now in a promising position to approach left-leaning people who detested Trump but are shocked by how very Trumpian Biden’s foreign policy has been so far and work with them to stop any new pushes for war in the Middle East or elsewhere. We should of course be honest and upfront about any disagreements we might have with them on other issues, but we need to stress that it will take a truly diverse movement of libertarians, progressives, and anti-interventionist conservatives to make sure that this or any future president is never again able to kill people—human beings like you and me—on the other side of the world on a whim.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily the views of the Libertarian Party of Orange County.
Reggie Peralta is a native of Santa Ana and UCLA graduate with a BA in Political Science. In addition to helping out as Blog Editor for the Libertarian Party of Orange County, he has volunteered and written content for local arts and cultural organizations like The Frida Cinema, Makara Center for the Arts, and LibroMobile.