Biden Would Undermine Military Deterrence Against Major Enemies

December 5, 2020 Updated: December 5, 2020

Commentary

A Biden administration likely would mean an unwise reversal of the Trump administration’s efforts to restore deterrence against America’s main foes: China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea.

Biden plans to de-emphasize the role of the military in favor of diplomacy without any acknowledgement that high-stakes diplomacy with adversaries seldom works without the tangible threat of overwhelming military force.

Biden prefers to focus on other methods such as diplomacy and trade as means of national power.

“There has always been the intent to signal from Day One that this is not an administration that is going to put the Pentagon at the center of things,” an anonymous source told Axios.

Biden represents a return to the weak-kneed diplomacy and hollow military of the Obama years. As far back as 1975 Biden condemned what he called the idea that the United States should “police the world” by opposing communism. He has never comprehended the value of deterrence as a diplomatic tool.

He prefers consensus building with “our allies” instead of decisive action by the United States, as was the case with the disastrous Iran nuclear deal—a return to leading from behind.

Aggressive foes such as Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Kim Jong Un pocket every concession they receive.

Biden notoriously promoted closer trade relations with Vladimir Putin’s Russia in 2011.

“Mr. Prime Minister, in case you haven’t noticed, there’s a real difference between being President and Vice President. The very good news is the President and I agree 100 percent on the need to continue to establish a closer and closer relationship,” Biden said during his 2011 meeting with Putin. “That’s why the very first foreign policy annunciation our administration made was when I made the speech in Munich that it was time to push the reset button and change the atmosphere.

“I would view the previous eight years—did not take advantage of the opportunities that exist for both our countries. It does not really matter how—it’s in our self-interest and I hope in the self-interest of Russia to have our relationship grow.”

This didn’t keep Russia from invading Ukraine three years later.

The same rationale has been applied to China and Iran. Aimless diplomacy and trade measures seldom subdue an aggressor, the most prominent example being the appeasement of Adolf Hitler in 1938, which did nothing to prevent him from starting World War II a year later in 1939.

Trade failed to deter China from building bases in international waters in the South China Sea that threaten the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia.

Biden believes the United States should reduce its “reliance” on nuclear weapons even as America’s adversaries look to modernize their nuclear arsenals and to neutralize our defenses. He opposes production of “low-yield” nuclear weapons. He also supports the idea of a nuclear-free world, but he has no ideas for how to responsibly accomplish that.

Biden told the Council for a Livable World in a candidate questionnaire that he supports a review of the U.S. policy allowing for a stated first-strike nuclear option, which undermines deterrence by removing our ability to make a poker player’s bluff.

A desire to have peace at all costs, including caving to adversaries, has marked Vice President Joe Biden’s entire 48-year political career. During the 1980s, Biden disregarded Soviet cheating in the arms race. He opposed President Ronald Reagan’s withdrawal from the voluntary observation of the never-ratified SALT II nuclear arms control treaty, which did little or nothing to stop the Cold War nuclear arms race.

Biden remains intent on entering into or remaining in nuclear pacts that the other side has little interest in fully honoring.

He plans to continue the status quo on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) that the Obama administration entered into in 2010 without preconditions. Russian nuclear modernization will not be halted. Biden has no stated plan to end Russia’s first-strike option on short-range battlefield nuclear weapons, nor to curtail Russia’s development of hypersonic nuclear delivery vehicles.

The same also is true with the Iranian nuclear deal, which Iran’s mullahs cheated on.

President Reagan referred in his diary to Biden as a “pure demagog,” who was out to save the world from Reagan’s ultimately successful goal of deterring and defeating the Soviet Union.

Michele Flournoy, former undersecretary of defense for policy under President Obama, who has been mentioned as a possible defense secretary under Biden, shares the former vice president’s support for an unconditional extension of START III. Flournoy prioritizes cost over capability when it comes to nuclear modernization.

“I need to be convinced on that because … I’m not sure I buy the strategic rationale for it. And certainly from a cost perspective, is that the highest priority for nuclear modernization? Is that the highest priority when competed against the full range of defense modernization? I’m not sure it passes the test,” Defense News last month quoted Flournoy as having said.

The former vice president backed away from his earlier opposition to missile defense and now supports it as an “imperfect defense” and deterrent, which Russia and China are moving fast to defeat.

Biden plans to continue the Trump administration’s investment in artificial intelligence (AI) and high technology solutions. The United States is working to catch up with China and Russia in the area of AI.

As it stands, Biden would be unlikely to continue President Trump’s policy of a drastic drawdown from Afghanistan.

If Biden wants to succeed in deterring China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, his approach if elected should be to avoid micromanaging the nation’s warfighting capabilities from the White House and let the generals and the admirals set the direction. Obama-era micromanagement resulted in the disastrous response to ISIS, which made it impossible for the Obama administration to finish off the ISIS caliphate.

Similarly, a refusal to take a harder line against Pakistan, Iran, China, and other supporters of the Taliban has made victory in Afghanistan elusive.

Biden should reconsider by putting military and diplomatic pressure against them.

Biden’s lack of understanding of deterrence as the key point of U.S. defense policy would endanger our national security and that of our allies.

John Rossomando is a senior analyst for defense policy at the Center for Security Policy and served as senior analyst for counterterrorism at The Investigative Project on Terrorism for eight years.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.