This article was originally published by the National Post. Below is an excerpt from the article.
By Derek H. Burney, November 15, 2023
As the Middle East is once again a major global flashpoint, there is growing concern that the world is spinning out of control, with wars in Israel and Ukraine and growing pressures between China and Taiwan. Whether the United States can effectively contain all three remains to be seen, especially if the 2024 presidential election involves U.S. President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump, who offer sharply conflicting prescriptions.
Biden’s quick trip to Israel following Hamas’s horrendous slaughter was a partial success, even though he was shunned by Palestinian and Arab leaders. His subsequent speech to the nation stressed that aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan are interconnected and central to U.S. national security, but polls suggest that many Americans are preoccupied with problems closer to home — chaos on the southern border, persistent concerns about the economy and inflation, and soaring crime in major U.S. cities. Biden’s election polls are sinking and support in Congress for more aid to Ukraine is at risk.
Still by far the Republican front-runner, Donald Trump consistently states that things would not happen in the Middle East, Ukraine or Taiwan if he were president, but offers little to substantiate his claim.
Unquestionably, the sudden attack by Hamas was a monumental failure of Israeli and U.S. intelligence, with consequences yet to follow. The lack of trust in intelligence agencies is a major casualty of the conflict. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be another.
Biden’s team hopes that unexpected global crises offer opportunities to feature the president’s strengths and experience in the 2024 election, offsetting concerns about his age. They assume that the instability of the Republicans in Congress and erratic comments by the party’s front-runner — Trump — will provide the electorate with a clear contrast on approaches to global stability. But Biden can demonstrate that contrast convincingly only if his efforts actually bring about greater stability in the Middle East.
Biden’s fate will be tested by many hurdles in the days ahead. Each is a high-stakes gamble for the president: whether Israel’s invasion becomes a humanitarian disaster; whether Hezbollah opens a second front, or the West Bank presents a third challenge; and whether Hamas can be eradicated. There are also no clear answers on how Gaza will be governed after the invasion, or by whom. Beyond that, Iran, Russia and China will seek to exploit events in the Middle East to their advantage.
Haunted still by the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, Biden has other tough issues to juggle, such as sustaining support for Ukraine, containing China and taking a harder line on Iran, which is the major funder, weapons supplier and military trainer of terror groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Attacks sponsored by Iran against Americans in the region demand more than a minimalist response.
Derek H. Burney is the former Canadian Ambassador in Washington and a member of the CNAPS Advisory Council.