Biden’s Irresponsible War Doctrine Led to Iran’s Attack on Israel

The Biden administration seems to be consistently adopting a policy of attempting to satisfy its foreign policy objectives by nurturing wars being fought by others while attempting to prevent harm to its own interests by containing those wars.

The doctrine of war management has three stages. The first is erecting and maintaining roadblocks to diplomatic attempts to end the war in the continuation of the pursuit of U.S. foreign policy objectives. The second is the provision on a massive scale of financial, military and intelligence aid to ensure the attainment of those foreign policy goals. The third is the attempt to manage and contain the war to prevent it from becoming a wider war into which the U.S. might get drawn.

This doctrine of war management seems to be being employed in both Gaza and Ukraine. It is a cynical and difficult to calibrate strategy that is fraught with danger for the U.S. and the world it claims to be responsibly leading.

In the war in Ukraine, the U.S. has actively prevented Ukraine from concluding a diplomatic solution that would have ended the war on terms that satisfied Ukrainian goals; in the war in Gaza, the U.S. has blocked the will of the international community and the Security Council by standing in the way of a permanent ceasefire. In both wars, the U.S. has been a rich source of weapons, financial aid and intelligence. But both wars, despite U.S. efforts to manage and contain them, have very nearly spilled over into much wider and more dangerous wars. That they have, so far, not is due less to skillful U.S. management than to the restraint of parties to the wars other than the United States.

But recklessly fueling wars with a real danger of widening and drawing America into them while crossing your fingers that others will maintain restraint is not a policy. It is the reckless, dangerous and irresponsible path of an administration without a maturely thought-out policy.

Though it can be debated whether Russia has shown restraint against Ukraine, it cannot be debated that it has shown restraint in avoiding a wider war that could draw in the U.S. or NATO. With Western provision of financial aid, weapons, training, intelligence and now even the admission that there are Western personnel on the ground making the use of Western supplied long-range missiles as well as targeting possible, Russia long ago concluded that NATO and the West was directly at war with Russia. Nonetheless, Russia has not targeted NATO nations as NATO weapons transit through them on the way to Ukraine. Nor have they acted in a manner that risks widening the war to NATO nations though NATO nations have been deeply involved and have acted in a manner that risks widening the war.

The events of April have shown just how real the risk of a widening war is in the Middle East. Feeling compelled to respond to the April 1 attack on an Iranian embassy compound in Damascus that killed seven Iranian officers, including General Mohammad Reza Zahedi, the top Iranian Quds Force commander in Lebanon and Syria, on April 13, Iran launched over 300 drones and missiles at Israel from Iranian soil.

That retaliation, that now risks an Israeli retaliation, that then risks a wider war into which the U.S. could get drawn, might have been avoided by more adroit U.S. management of the war. Prior to their aerial attack on Israel, Iran’s mission to the UN claimed that they would not have to address the attack on its embassy, which it sees as an attack on its soil, had the Security Council addressed it: “Had the UN Security Council condemned the Zionist regime’s reprehensible act of aggression on our diplomatic premises in Damascus and subsequently brought to justice its perpetrators, the imperative for Iran to punish this rogue regime might have been obviated.” But, unable to see its way to impartially applying the same international principles against attacking another country to both Israel and Iran, the United States, backed by the U.K. and France opposed a Security Council statement condemning Israel’s attack on the Iranian embassy.

Feeling compelled to now make that statement itself, Iran launched an assault on Israel. But the unprecedented attack from Iranian soil, large though it was, may have been carefully calculated to accomplish its objectives with restraint.

Iran long telegraphed its retaliation. It attempted to overwhelm Israel’s iron dome air defense system largely with slow moving drones that are easy to shoot down after announcing they were on their way shortly after they were launched instead of when they were closer to Israel. They seem to have selected only military targets. No one seems to have been killed. A young girl who was, unfortunately, injured was hit by falling shrapnel from an intercepted missile. Immediately following the Iranian launch, its mission to the UN declared that “The matter can be deemed concluded.”

That Iran responded to an attack on its sovereign soil by launching a retaliatory attack from its own soil and not via a proxy in Lebanon, Iraq or Syria for the first time can be seen as escalatory in the history of the Israel-Iran confrontation. But in the context of the immediate conflict, it is conceivable to see it as an attempt to deliver the message it felt it need to without escalating. Iran replied to an attack on an embassy that was fatal, including for a top general, with an attack on a military compound that killed no one.

Though the aerial assault with over 300 drones and missiles is massive in number, it may be less massive in ambition. It may have been calculated as the number of projectiles needed to get a small number through to do limited damage to a military base that it says was directly involved in the attack on its embassy.

Not only Iran, but Israel so far seems to be showing restraint. After the strike on the sovereign territory of an Iranian embassy, which can be seen as escalatory, the U.S. message that it will not support a retaliatory Israeli strike on Iran seems to have persuaded Israel, at least for now, to moderate its response.

Axios’ Barak Ravid reports that U.S. President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a phone call that the U.S. “won’t support any counterattack against Iran.” CNN reports that the U.S. has also specified that they will not “participate in any offensive action against Iran.” Framing Israel’s defense against the drones and missiles as a demonstration of its “remarkable capacity to defend against and defeat even unprecedented attacks,” Biden advised Netanyahu, “You got a win. Take the win.” Several members of Israel’s war cabinet argued for launching an immediate retaliatory attack on Iran, but Netanyahu reportedly called it off after speaking with Biden and seeing the lack of serious damage caused by the attack.

The Israeli war cabinet has not yet decided how to respond to the Iranian attack.  On April 15, military chief Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said that the attack “will be met with a response,” but with the U.S., the G7, the EU, and the UN all reportedly pressing Israel to show restraint, Israel has reportedly told the U.S. that they are not “looking for a significant escalation with Iran,” and there are reports that Israel may not “target Iranian territory” in favor of strikes on Iranian targets in the region.

The U.S. doctrine of war management amounts to the reckless support of war and crossing your fingers that it doesn’t get out of hand. It is a difficult and dangerous doctrine. On April 13, the world saw how terrifyingly close it could come to failing. So far, crossing your fingers has worked. But it is a dangerous and irresponsible plan to count on.

Ted Snider is a regular columnist on U.S. foreign policy and history at and The Libertarian Institute. He is also a frequent contributor to Responsible Statecraft and The American Conservative as well as other outlets. To support his work or for media or virtual presentation requests, contact him at