Houthis in Yemen
Houthis in YemenReuters

On New Year’s Eve, Houthi Jihadists opened fire on US Navy choppers who were coming to the rescue of a container ship that the Iran-backed terrorists operating out of Yemen were hijacking.

Navy personnel were not allowed to preemptively attack the terrorists, only to issue warnings to them, until they were personally in danger. Only then were they finally allowed to fight back.

U.S. Central Command proposed targeting Houthi bases to end the wave of attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea. The proposal went to the Pentagon where Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had undergone surgery to remove his prostate and had been released a week earlier. On Jan 1, Austin began experiencing severe pain and was taken to the hospital.

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, a Pentagon bureaucrat with no meaningful military experience, was vacationing in Puerto Rico when she was told that she needed to take over for Austin who was in the ICU where he would stay for four days. She proposed cutting short her vacation and coming back in two days, rather than right away, but then she decided to stay on the beach and handle the responsibility for the national defense over Zoom.

Kelly Magsamen, Austin’s Chief of Staff, a former vice president of the left-wing Center for American Progress, was out sick with the flu, and did not know what was happening.

Central Command’s request to take out Houthi targets finally made its way to Biden whohad left on the 27th for his own vacation in the Caribbean, but he rejected any attack.

Biden and Hicks had both decided to go on vacation even though the Houthis had stepped up their attacks on Dec 23rd. Austin had undergone his prostatectomy on that same day.

On Christmas Day, Iran’s terrorist allies in Iraq had launched a drone attack that wounded three service members including Chief Warrant Officer Garrett Illerbrunn who suffered a brain injury when shrapnel struck his head. Still senior administration officials did not change their plans.

As Iran took over the region, no one was in the office at the Biden administration.

Deprived of the ability to fight back, the US Navy and the Red Sea Coalition could do nothing more than play defense. The Red Sea carries 21% of the world’s container ship traffic and shipping companies got the message that the United States would not take action and that the best they could expect was to have the Navy rescue them once they were already under attack.

Some major companies pulled out of the Red Sea entirely, slowing down the transport of goods around the world, raising prices and wrecking economies, while others agreed to meet the Houthi’s terms by certifying that they had nothing to do with Israel and likely making payments to the Islamic terrorist group under the table. That means that Iran is now in control of global trade.

A White House official claimed that on Jan 3rd, the “President convened his national security team on the morning of New Year’s Day to talk about, again, the entire situation in the Red Sea”.

In reality, Biden was flying back from St. Croix on the 3rd, Secretary of Defense Austin was in the ICU in Walter Reed Hospital, his Chief of Staff was home with the flu, and the Deputy Defense Secretary was on vacation in Puerto Rico. There was no national security team.

The only outcome of whatever meeting they had was to warn “the Houthis that they will bear full consequences and responsibility for any further attacks against commercial vessels in the Red Sea.” When asked “would there be another warning”, the unnamed White House official responded, “I would not anticipate another warning”. Since then the warnings keep coming.

A week later the Houthis launched the largest attack yet with 21 drones and missiles aimed at ships in the Red Sea that were shot down by US and British Navy ships at the cost of tens of millions of dollars.

Secretary of State Blinken, apparently the only high-ranking administrational national security figure who wasn’t either in the hospital or on vacation, responded by warning, yet again, “If these attacks continue, as they did yesterday, there will be consequences.

This follows weeks and weeks of warnings to the Houthis and their sponsors in Iran.

The problem, as the unnamed White House officially unintentionally admitted, is that “we have acted defensively.”

US Navy ships can have as little as 30 seconds in which to shoot down incoming Houthi missiles.

That’s what acting “defensively” means.

The lives of our sailors and those on the container ships are measured in those 30 seconds. Until now, the US Navy and its allies have managed to stop every single attack. But whether it’s 9/11 or Oct 7, eventually the day comes when the terrorists get lucky and their attack succeeds.

That’s why shipping companies are either cutting a deal with the Houthis or leaving the Red Sea. Despite the presence of the USS Eisenhower, an aircraft carrier, and multiple destroyers, Iran remains in control of the Red Sea because it acts offensively while Biden acts defensively.

When Biden launched attacks on the Houthis, the administration finally appeared to be going on the offense, but in reality the raids only struck about a fifth of the Houthi capabilities to send a message.

The message was sent and it was that Biden had no willpower. And the Houthis quickly responded by using the capabilities that Biden had spared with further attacks on shipping.

More companies, including Shell, are pulling out as a result.

Besides giving Iran control of the Red Sea, the impact on the global economy will be massive. Oil prices will rise sharply and with shipping container capacity falling by a quarter, less goods will be moved around the world. Americans will see higher gas prices, less exports and some slower imports, further breaking our supply chain and depressing our economy.

Playing defense also means that we’re using $2 million missiles to stop $2,000 Houthi drones, draining our wealth and the weapons stockpiles we would need to fight Iran or China. We have the bigger defense industry, but in a contest between who can make more drones or ship missiles, the Houthis will eventually win because theirs are cheaper and faster to make.

They have a plan to win. Do we?

Much as Iran timed the Hamas attack of Oct 7 on Israel for the conclusion of the High Holy Days after initially planning it for the first night of Passover, it timed the Houthi attacks for the Christmas break. Tehran understood that much of the Washington D.C. establishment was going to be on vacation, taking care of personal business or otherwise out of the office.

And so while United States military forces were fighting Iranian proxies in Iraq and Yemen,the elected and appointed officials overseeing our national defense, including the commander-in- chief of the armed forces, were on vacation, in bed or in the hospital, but not on the job.

That’s how in a matter of weeks, Iran took control of one of the world’s major shipping channels and now holds the world economy hostage. All it had to do was wait for winter break.

Biden’s problem isn’t just his age or any speculation about his mental condition.

When he came into office, he made the decision to break off support for the Saudi campaign against the Houthis and to remove the Jihadist group whose motto includes “Death to America” from the terror list because Iran and its leftist allies had stirred up claims that the war had caused a famine in Yemen. In reality, the Houthis, much like Hamas, were stealing food.

After being confirmed on a Tuesday, Blinken rushed through “an expeditious review” of the Houthis and it was announced on that Friday that he “intends to revoke” its terrorist status.

The Houthis however decided to remain terrorists.

The Biden administration claimed that it had to end the campaign against the Houthis because of “humanitarian consequences”. What is the humanitarian impact of shutting down the shipments of food, including humanitarian aid, that were passing through the Red Sea?

Biden’s betrayal allowed the Houthis to consolidate their position in Yemen and they, rather than ending the campaign, escalated to seizing control over shipping in the Red Sea. Biden and administration officials had been warned that this might happen and they chose to dismiss it.

Every element of this preventable disaster is due to the Biden administration which sidelined sanctions on Iran, glutting the terror state with billions that it invested in Islamic terrorists from Yemen to Gaza, allowed the Houthis to seize control of a country and even the water, and which couldn’t even be bothered to delay its winter vacations to watch the disaster play out.

American soldiers and sailors battled Iran’s terrorists while their leaders lay on the beach.

When Iran took an embassy hostage, Biden was in the Senate. Now that he’s in the White House, Iran has taken the world hostage.

Daniel Greenfieldis a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. This article previously appeared at the Center's Front Page Magazine.