PARIS — Does anyone recall the U.S. Congress voting on behalf of the American people to bomb three different Middle Eastern countries this month? Of course not. Because that’s never how things are done. Instead, what ends up happening is that an American president — Joe Biden, most recently — just unilaterally lobs some missiles onto sovereign nations using whatever pretext sounds most convincing to “low information” voters.
Generally speaking, Congress is supposed to decide when the U.S. goes to war, but this almost never happens. Still, it’s legitimate for the president to use military force unilaterally in certain limited scenarios, like in self-defense against an imminent attack, or to rescue Americans abroad.
“If you harm an American, we will respond,” Biden said of the attacks that he ordered, ignoring that revenge doesn’t justify presidential unilateralism. It’s also not up to the U.S. to decide what weapons or logistics are allowed inside foreign countries on the other side of the planet. The U.S. doesn’t even want Russian President Vladimir Putin doing that in neighboring Ukraine.
The fact that the Pentagon says that it hit logistics hubs of Iranian proxies suggests a preemptive component, but nothing that seems any more valid than the attacks for which President Donald Trump was chastised for four years ago.
In January 2020, Trump unilaterally ordered the bombing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani when he caught wind that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force commander was on a visit to Baghdad. Trump invoked self-defense against a future attack on Americans that he attempted to qualify as imminent. Democrats in particular didn’t buy it.
What about holding Biden to the same standard?
Why does Biden still have U.S. troops over there in a position to be killed, anyway? Those targeted were hanging out on a base of 350 Army and Air Force personnel in Jordan on a “defeat ISIS operation” that’s been in place since, well, ISIS was defeated. Consider a Pentagon statement from December 2023 revealing that despite 40 anti-ISIS operations in the previous month, they only managed to find four ISIS members to kill and 33 to detain. And who really knows what passes for an ISIS member these days. It’s not like they have club cards or toy drives.
French President Emmanuel Macron is so over fighting ISIS that he recommended last October that the international coalition to defeat ISIS be expanded to target Hamas. Clearly they don’t have enough to do.
There’s no ISIS caliphate, or threat thereof anymore — thanks in significant part to Iran and U.S.-offed Soleimani. And there’s no evidence that ISIS is a threat to the U.S. homeland. And even if it was, the solution would be more troops on U.S. borders, not on Jordan’s. If anything, ISIS is more of an existential threat to Iran, having actually bombed a memorial for Soleimani just last month.
At any point has Team Biden stopped to think about the root causes of this whole mess, and how they’re provoking escalation rather than mitigating it?
“Radical Iran-backed militant groups operating in Syria and Iraq” bombed the base in Jordan, Biden said. Oh, so sworn enemies of ISIS, whom the U.S. says it’s in the area to liquidate. So why would Iran have a problem with the U.S. being there to target their common enemy? Unless, of course, that’s not actually why the U.S. is still hanging around — and Iran knows it. It’s pretty clear what the neocons of both parties have long wanted: a direct war with Iran. But both Iran and the U.S. understand that would be the start of World War III, so instead they’re exchanging blows indirectly, through third- party countries and proxies in the same way that U.S.-led NATO is fueling Ukraine in a continued conflict with Russia that’s effectively serving as a convenient pretext for U.S. taxpayer cash to be mainlined into the military industrial complex.
The dozens of U.S. bombs that Biden also fired on Yemen were meant to target the capabilities of Iranian-backed Houthis, who have been striking ships in the Red Sea in support of Palestinian civilians currently being massacred by Western-supplied and enabled Israel.
It seems that stopping the Gaza massacre is the solution here — just not the most profitable one for the bombing business.
Team Biden claims the need to ensure that the conflict in Gaza doesn’t spread in the region, but when the entire world is just standing by and talking while Israel drives millions of people who have no army and no formal capacity for self-defense out of Gaza, foisting a humanitarian burden on the entire region, is it really reasonable for Washington to expect no response whatsoever?
Who would Washington prefer as its armed interlocutor if not Iranian proxies? Iran directly? Another Arab state? Not if it wants to avoid escalation, as it claims.
The bottom line is that Washington is widely seen by the Arab world as a destabilizing force that’s aiding and abetting Israel’s attacks on Palestinian civilians. Iran wants the U.S. out of the region entirely. Why would it even be controversial at this point to give them all exactly what they want? The U.S. no longer needs the Middle East for energy, and doesn’t have any formal defense treaties there. So unless lobbing bombs is a strictly profitable enterprise, it makes no sense why the U.S. is still there at all.
Rachel Marsden is a columnist, political strategist and host of independently produced talk shows in French and English. Reach her via rachelmarsden.com. Her column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News.