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Morning Glory: Biden’s red line is erased

by John Jefferson
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What happens if Israel does nothing after Iran’s fusillade on Saturday night?

President Biden told Iran: “Don’t.” Iran did.

Team Biden then quickly turned to “restraining” Israel from responding. “Take the win,” the president is reported to have counseled Prime Minister Netanyahu.

It is a good thing that Israel —with the help of the U.S., the U.K., France, Jordan and Saudi Arabia— fended off the worst result. But Iran escalated way beyond what it has ever hitherto dared to do. Biden urged Israel to stand down. Astonishing.

Yesterday’s column laid out the origins of the Biden appeasement policy. At this writing Israel has not responded. I hope by the time this column posts that Israel will have done so. The Wall Street Journal has reported that Israel is very close to unleashing a response.

We have also learned that nine missiles from Iran did manage to evade interception and strike the IAF’s Nevatim Air Base in southern Israel along with another nearby IAF base, and that 120 ballistic missiles were launched during the Iran attack, as well as  200 plus cruise missiles and drones. That’s not a symbolic attack. It is a “mostly failed” massive attack. It wasn’t intended to be a show. It was a strategic attack on the Jewish State. Iran wanted to kill and destroy.

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So Biden’s “Don’t!” didn’t work again. One poster on X quipped that every time he says “Don’t,” they do. Commentary’s Seth Mandel pointed out in a memorable Commentary podcast that Biden’s has met the “foreign policy fiasco” measure of former President Obama’s “red line” erasure. John Podhoretz noted in same podcast that Biden “hasn’t said anything” at all after Saturday night’s bombardment. “His policy toward Iran is shredded. There is no policy towards Iran anymore.”

Both are right, as are Abe Greenwald, Christine Rosen and Matthew Continetti who are also on this memorable pod. There is a bet amongst them now on whether Israel both responds to Iran and enters Rafah to finish off Hamas.

WHAT IS ISRAEL’S FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE, THE IRON DOME?

The United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Foreign Minister David Cameron have joined the Neville Chamberlain club anchored at the White House. If Israel acts it will do so despite their allies in the defense of the Jewish State asking them not to go on offense. But as former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren bluntly stated on Monday’s radio show: “Defense is not deterrence.” He’s right too. The willingness to take a punch, or many punches, doesn’t deter the enemy. It encourages the enemy to try another assault.

This isn’t the sort of thing one has to learn from the Melian Dialogue in Thucydides (though it is indeed found there.) You get the same lesson from Ralphie in a Christmas Story when he finally snaps: Bullies have to be stopped. They don’t evolve into your friends. Not on a playground. Not in the realm of national security.

What does Hamas’s Sinwar think at that point? Is he going to continue to reject Israel’s cease-fire offers because he’s a religious fanatic or because he expects to emerge from the tunnels as the terrorist equivalent of Churchill at the close of the worst part of the Battle of Britain because the United States forces Israel to stay out of Rafah and thus not to destroy those tunnels?

What does Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah see happening here? And how about “MBS” and “MBZ” —the rulers of our allies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates?

And what do the triumvirs “Supreme Leader” of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, Russia’s dictator Vladimir Putin and the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Xi Jinping conclude if the United States succeeds in obliging Israel to accept this unprecedented attack on the Jewish State? Nothing good. Many things bad. For Israel, for Ukraine, for Taiwan. And for the United States.

Iran has funded and controlled its proxies to the north and south of Israel for decades. Iran never dared such an attack until now. Khamenei has taken the measure of Team Biden. Israel’s War Cabinet must persuade him that it is not the measure of the Jewish State.

We know Israel killed many Iranians with its strike on the Damascus headquarters of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. We know that apologists for Tehran’s mullahs are suggesting, and sometimes asserting, that Israel’s strikes provoked this off-the-charts escalation from Tehran, as if there was some unspoken deal between Iran and Israel that Israel would not tag out Iran’s commanders in the field if they could get back to a base.

It’s up to Israel now to reset the understandings Iran has developed as well as the mullahs’ reliance on President Biden to always take and advise the wrong course on national security. Hopefully by the time you read this, Prime Minister Netanyahu and the War Cabinet have done just that. 

Hugh Hewitt is one of the country’s leading journalists of the center-right. A son of Ohio and a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Michigan Law School, Hewitt has been a Professor of Law at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law since 1996, where he teaches Constitutional Law. Hewitt launched his eponymous radio show from Los Angeles in 1990, and it is today syndicated to hundreds of stations and outlets across the country every Monday through Friday morning. Hewitt has frequently appeared on every major national news television network, hosted television shows for PBS and MSNBC, written for every major American paper, authored a dozen books and moderated a score of Republican candidate debates, most recently the November 2023 Republican presidential debate in Miami and four Republican presidential debates in the 2015-16 cycle. Hewitt focuses his radio show and this column on the Constitution, national security, American politics and the Cleveland Browns and Guardians. Hewitt has interviewed tens of thousands of guests from Democrats Hillary Clinton and John Kerry to Republican Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump over his 40 years in broadcast, and this column previews the lead story that will drive his radio show today.

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