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The Gaza Pier Floats Away, Another Biden Political Blunder

The botched humanitarian aid operation caps Biden's Middle East meltdown.

“The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men Gang aft agley [often go astray],” as poet Bobby Burns wrote. Nothing says “Gang aft agley” like anything the Biden administration touches. For example, the much-touted Joint Logistics Over the Shore (JLOTS) pier-and-dock system Biden had the US Navy and US Army Corps of Engineers install on a wave-rocked beach in Gaza failed.

Failure of the Gaza Pier Just One Problem

The JLOTS system has been deployed in the past and worked well. But not this time. It was already a disaster when the initial fleet of trucks filled with desperately needed humanitarian aid ended up being mobbed and the food stolen. And now a portion of the pier system has broken away. A motorized tug that supported the floating pier severed its moorings in rough weather, ending up on a beach north of Gaza in Israel. A US Central Command (USCENTCOM) press release explained:

“This morning (Gaza time) [May 25], four US Army vessels supporting the maritime humanitarian aid mission in Gaza were affected by heavy sea states. The vessels broke free from their moorings and two vessels are now anchored on the beach near the pier. The third and fourth vessels are beached on the coast of Israel near Ashkelon. Efforts to recover the vessels are under way with assistance from the Israeli Navy.”

The USCENTCOM statement also emphasized that no US troops would be on the ground in Gaza. That may be the problem. US forces are not managing the operation from dock to distribution. Relying on others to achieve mission success for the United States seldom works well and portends additional hiccups in the future.

Reports about where the incident occurred shed more light on what happened. A US Army vessel was towing a piece of the JLOTS dock-and-pier system when, in heavy seas, a portion of the pier broke loose and ended up on the beach. USCENTCOM explained that two of the four untethered ships “are now anchored” close to the pier, but another report didn’t use the term anchored. “The other two vessels washed up on a beach near the pier… adding that efforts to recover the vessels were underway with assistance from the Israeli Navy,” according to The Times of Israel. A landing craft mechanized (LCM) attempted to recover the portion of the pier but ran aground north of Gaza and could not back off the beach. This incident raises numerous questions about the training and skills of the towing vessel operators and the seamanship of the captain of the LCM. Who was in charge of this operation when the sea state turned treacherous?

The incident was blamed on stormy weather and rough seas. Don’t the Navy and the US Army train for such unfortunate events? Is the United States capable of fighting a war when the weather is not nice? However, as Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, deputy commander, US Central Command, explained during a Pentagon press briefing: “I’ve mentioned before, but just to reiterate, historically, by early September, the seas begun [sic] to rise and Mother Nature gets a vote here.” Not to belabor the obvious, but it’s May, not September. Nonetheless, it calls into question the value of the $320 million modular dock-and- pier system if it is so sensitive to changes in the weather.

JLOTS Installation More Political Than Effective

Some may be more cynical about the whole JLOTS initiative in the Eastern Mediterranean. “US President Joe Biden said in his State of the Union that the pier would ‘receive large shipments carrying food, water, medicine, and temporary shelter,’ a move largely seen as an attempt to appease his Democratic Party’s base as he runs for re-election in November,” is the way Al Jazeera viewed the Navy pier episode, supporting the notion that the Biden administration’s actions in the Middle East were more politically expedient than an effective humanitarian aid operation.

The failure to secure the JLOTS pier, the inability to recover the beached pier sections, and the LCM grounding do not build confidence, reflecting the Biden administration’s lackluster performance during the Israel-Hamas war. Telling Israel, on the one hand, that US support is “ironclad” while halting needed precision munitions shows inconsistent decision-making and failing resolve. It’s no surprise that international news outlets and foreign governments are left with a poor impression of the Biden team’s ability to lead.

The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliate.

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