Biden’s Gaza pier is a dangerous, illogical election-year gimmick

March 28, 2024

For the next month and a half, a small group of Army logistics vessels will inch across the Atlantic, traveling at a third of the speed of a Navy warship. Then, according to the Biden administration, soldiers will take two months to build a floating pier to deliver food and aid to Gaza. All told, relief may not meet needy hands for months — barring any delays. 

One would be hard-pressed to find a more dangerous and illogical election-year gimmick from our commander in chief. 

A casual glance at this “emergency mission” prompts several questions, each of which has an unsatisfying answer. They all clearly indicate that the person best served by this mission is not the American citizen, the U.S. service member, the Palestinian civilian, or the Israeli soldier, but President Joe Biden, candidate for reelection.  

I am demanding answers for this waste of tax dollars and military readiness capability. 

Last week, I led my Republican Senate Armed Services Committee colleagues in an official request to the commander in chief, asking for a baseline explanation of this looming disaster. We note that the project seems to have been announced without the Biden administration doing any planning. In fact, the president shared the news in a made-for-TV moment during the State of the Union. I am told that as senior Department of Defense officials watched, they wondered how their teams would implement this prime-time directive. 

We also do not know how U.S. soldiers will be protected throughout this deployment. In the region, our forces are already subjected to a steady barrage of missile and drone attacks from Iran’s proxies. It is unreasonable to assume this mission would be exempt from similar attacks. 

Crucially, no one has figured out how this effort will get the aid to civilians in need. On the ground in Gaza, we do not have partners we can trust to deliver aid where it needs to go. The absence of a delivery plan underscores the futility of this mission. 

The CENTCOM commander recently attributed the challenges regarding humanitarian aid to the security situation within Gaza. In other words, the blame rests with Hamas terrorists, who regularly steal and hoard the aid.  

In fact, without solid local partners, the pier could create more challenges than it solves. The president vowed that “no U.S. boots will be on the ground” in his State of the Union address. That is a wise commitment. But it still relegates our soldiers to the sea, on a static target, while chaos could fester on land at the end of the pier. What will keep Hamas or other agitators from camping out on the shore? 

A multitude of risks are foreseeable. Troops have already shipped out, yet the haphazard rollout of this plan shows it is being written as it is being enacted. 

The whole operation underscores two broader points.

First, the mission raises fundamental questions about the president’s flawed approach to the broader region. The Houthis are waging an unrestricted campaign of terrorism against commercial shipping, forcing the United States to commit a naval task force to the region indefinitely. Meanwhile, five American hostages — and dozens of Israelis — continue to languish in captivity in Gaza. Israel is on the cusp of dismantling Hamas with one final push in Rafah. To order an Army aid mission in this context is senseless at best and outright dangerous at worst. 

Second, the U.S. military is being asked to do too much with too little. There is a yawning gap between the number of Army logistics ships we need and the ones we have — a sobering fact underscored by the demands of this mission. Ideally, these soldiers would be protected by Marines, but we simply do not have enough amphibious ships to put them in position. A stronger defense industrial base would help remedy both these challenges.

In 1983, Hezbollah killed 241 American service members in Beirut, and the U.S. found itself in a Middle East crisis not unlike today’s. Then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger posed several yes-or-no questions to help shape President Ronald Reagan’s use of military force. The series became the “Weinberger Doctrine.” He asked: 

Are the vital national interests of the U.S. involved? Do we have the clear intention of winning? Are military and political objectives clearly defined? Is there reasonable assurance the American public supports this? Is the deployment of troops a last resort? 

For this mission, Biden would have to answer all these questions in the negative.  

It seems this pier functions primarily as the president’s lifeline to a small group of voters he needs to appease. It is time for Biden to follow Weinberger’s framework. If he does, he will terminate this ill-conceived mission. 

Roger Wicker is a U.S. senator for Mississippi and serves as the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.