Why Biden Can’t Afford to Expand the War


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When a drone strike from an Iran-backed militia killed three US servicemembers and wounded at least 25 others in Jordan on January 28, pressure grew considerably for the White House to escalate US military involvement in the conflict in the Middle East.

While President Joe Biden and his foreign policy team have been broadcasting their commitment to preventing a widening of the war for months, the war has, indeed, been widening. And the first US fatalities could be a game changer.

In a tough election year, Biden will now be considering military options that go beyond the strikes against the Houthis in Yemen. But the president also needs to beware of the consequences: In the current political environment, the electoral costs of escalating a war would likely be far greater than the costs of avoiding one.

A new YouGov poll released on January 25 shows that 23 percent of Biden’s 2020 supporters would hold the president responsible if gasoline prices were to rise to $5 a gallon or more, because of a widening war in the Middle East. Overall, a 52 percent majority of respondents held the same view. And 71 percent agreed that such an increase in gas prices, owing to an expanded war, could affect the outcome of the presidential election in November.

These figures are reflective of a bigger overall trend …

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