Joe Biden: The War Leader’s ‘Political Performance’ in the Gaza Conflict
As the dust of war settles over the beleaguered Gaza Strip, US President Joe Biden is donning the mantle of a war leader. Analysts see in him a leader offering a performance of strength, a show of solidarity with Israel. But the gilded proscenium of this political theater also frames a domestic audience, an electorate that Biden needs to woo ahead of the 2024 elections. His actions, including a recent visit to Israel, are being described as ‘political performance’. Yet, they cast a long shadow over his previous pledges to place human rights at the heart of his foreign policy.
A War Leader’s Solidarity
Biden’s vocal support for Israel, many argue, is not merely political posturing. It springs from a personal affinity for the American ally, born of his self-avowed Zionism and lifelong support for Israel. As the conflict in Gaza escalated, Biden visited Israel, standing shoulder to shoulder with its leaders as they directed a military campaign that has drawn widespread international criticism for its toll on Palestinian civilians. This juxtaposition – a President advocating for human rights while backing a contentious military offensive – has sparked questions about the sincerity of his commitment to a human rights-centric foreign policy.
Experts view Biden’s approach to the Gaza conflict as a calculated act of political performance. They argue that by positioning himself as a war leader and foreign policy expert, he is attempting to project an image of strength and decisiveness. This could prove crucial in countering Republican criticism and appealing to voters back home. However, foreign policy rarely figures prominently in the considerations of American voters, except during times of war. Thus, the conflict in Gaza provides Biden a stage on which he can flex his foreign policy muscles without incurring significant costs, particularly for American soldiers.
Domestic Politics and Foreign Policy
It is a truism of American politics that foreign policy decisions cannot be divorced from domestic considerations. Biden’s critics within the Republican Party have accused him of being too lenient towards Iran, a key ally of Hamas. In the face of these criticisms, the White House has sought to reassert its narrative and position Biden as a champion of Israel. Yet, some argue that his refusal to call for an immediate ceasefire signals a failure of leadership. The US recently vetoed a UN Security Council proposal calling for a humanitarian pause in the fighting, a move that further underscores the tension between Biden’s human rights rhetoric and his political actions.
Phyllis Bennis, Director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, characterized Biden’s visit to Israel as a missed opportunity. She argued that any visit that did not include a public call for a ceasefire amounted to tacit approval of Israel’s ongoing attacks on Gaza. This, she suggested, undermined Biden’s vague calls for respect for international law.
In conclusion, Biden’s response to the conflict in Gaza appears to be a complex interplay of personal conviction, political performance, and domestic considerations. Whether this approach will pay political dividends remains to be seen. But it has certainly cast a spotlight on the tension between the pursuit of human rights and the exigencies of geopolitical realities.
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