Prof. ST Hsieh
Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum
October 21, 2022
The attached review/critique on Biden’s National Strategy is very critical and to the point. But Seth Cropsey may be asking too much from this White House.
First, Biden’s National Strategy is required by law, so this version of the National Strategy is similar to previous strategies, by nature it is a political paper (but not a policy paper.)
Second, it is intended for domestic consumption, but only intended for the Congress or Politicians. It is doubtful how many US citizens paid attention to this piece paper. As such foreign nations should not be alerted by this “strategy.” The next President of the US will follow the law and announce another version of his/her “national strategy.”
Third, as a US political paper, any administration has to cover or appease all bases in the US. So, it is not practical to expect this type of “Strategy” would include any specifics. Specifically, it cannot include any actionable items or goals.
Fourth, Biden and his team have not shown any disciplined management of any critical issues. His administration, when faced with any major challenge, would mostly react as they are blinded sided. There is no active planning or alternatives. Typical reaction to the public is “all options are on the table” but no specifics. Then Biden always says that “He is thinking about it” on what is the next act.
Finally, Biden’s team always blames everyone else for the crisis in hand without taking any real responsibility timely.
Biden used to quote his father by saying that “If everything is a priority then there is no priority!” Talk is so cheap for politicians…
If Every Issue Is a Security Issue, Nothing Is
Barron: Seth Cropse Oct. 21, 2022 11:13 am ET
About the author: Seth Cropsey is the founder and president of Yorktown Institute. He served as a naval officer and as deputy Undersecretary of the Navy and is the author of Mayday and Seablindness.
The Biden administration published its National Security Strategy late last week. The document epitomizes what is wrong, intellectually and strategically, with the current administration’s strategic perspective. Its greatest failure is the securitization of all topics with no attendant focus on any given strategic question. While the Biden administration faces a crisis across Eurasia that is close to drawing the U.S. into active warfare, it has engaged itself intellectually in a public-facing task with no actual substance.
Congress requires every administration to publish a National Security Strategy, but the document released by the administration is the apex of strategic bureaucratization. It is not a defense strategy, nor is it a grand strategy. It is, rather, a messaging exercise primarily for domestic audiences.
In one sense, the National Security Strategy, like many of its predecessor documents, says little about an administration’s actual policy. This document is jam-packed with priorities from countering China and Russia to mitigating climate change and ensuring American resilience.
Nevertheless, the structure of the Biden National Security Strategy does point to a strategic hermeneutic, a set of assumptions about the world, its major actors, and its critical dynamics that are useful to those who seek to understand policy. Four elements are relevant. All of them point to a lack of seriousness, and more fundamentally, to a lack of strategic change since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
First, the National Security Strategy is an ideological manifesto, not a realistic look at, for lack of a better word, the security elements of Eurasian competition. It begins with the same rhetoric that has become commonplace in any administration’s national security strategy—the world is “more dangerous” than at any point, yet the United States retains an “enduring role,” with its strategy’s precepts remaining as sound as they were ten, twenty, or fifty years ago. The notable aspect, however, is the explicit equivalence between traditional and nontraditional threats. The U.S. must compete and cooperate simultaneously. The climate disaster and public health questions, even inflation issues worthy of consideration and relevant to a security assessment. Of course, there is an overlap between climate, inflationary, health, and other questions and a nation’s broader strategy. But a security strategy is the wrong venue in which to discuss, for example, climate adaptation or an anti-inflationary policy. If every issue is a security issue, none is.
Second, the National Security Strategy demonstrates the degree to which the Biden administration does not see current Eurasian competition as military competition. The focus on “nontraditional security issues” dovetails with the Biden administration’s doctrine of “integrated deterrence.” The National Security Strategy defines it as “combining our strengths” to deter America’s adversaries. This concept looks much like “smart power,” the Obama administration’s doctrine that combined diplomacy and military action to achieve American interests—in other words statecraft. Much like smart power, integrated deterrence appears to be a meaningless term with no relevance to the national security professional or interested citizen. In reality it is a strategic dog whistle to Biden’s political allies that the administration does not prioritize conventional deterrence and warfighting capacity. Integrated deterrence serves to create justifications to cut and reorient defense spending and traditional military means in favor of domestic policy priorities.
This points to the third issue, the Biden administration’s supposed conviction that American economic resilience is the foundation of national power. In the abstract this claim is undeniable: Economic power is the wellspring of military strength. Yet it is no longer 1945 or 1960. The United States must apply its power with care and prudence. Instead, the Biden administration has dressed up climate handouts as an anti-inflationary measure. The lost art of Net Assessment—the art of strategy—can be understood as compelling or inducing an opponent to take steps in one’s own interest. The Biden administration has triggered and sustained an inflationary crisis and concurrently introduced a defense strategy that will hollow out U.S. military capacity. The Biden administration’s point is to justify reducing American military strength because it sees competition as a complex concatenation of diverse causes.
Fourth, the administration’s refusal to recognize Iran as a legitimate strategic threat reveals its unwillingness to recognize tangible competition and adapt to new circumstances. The Biden team still clings to the chimerical Obama-era dream of a regional realignment, in which Israel and Saudi Arabia were humbled, and Iran elevated. The U.S. recently bullied Israel into conceding its maritime space to Hezbollah, and by extension to Iran. “Regional integration” empowers Iran at the expense of Israel and the Gulf Arabs. All this while Iran provides Russia with weapons to strike targets throughout Ukraine. Although the Iran Deal may be dead for now as protests surge in the self-styled Islamic Republic, it will return when the media conditions have shifted.
A more sensible National Security Strategy would have begun with a recognition of the current geopolitical situation: the struggle for Eurasian mastery that involves the U.S., China, Russia, Iran, and the various secondary powers throughout the landmass. American strategy has a singular objective, to preserve the extant Eurasian security system and counter Chinese, Russian, and Iranian attempts to overturn it. This requires all elements of national power, but most specifically military. America’s adversaries pose a military threat and seek to achieve their goals by military means.
The Biden administration does face a dangerous world. Russia makes nuclear threats. The war in Ukraine drags on. Russia spoils the global food and energy supply. China pressures Taiwan. Xi Jinping is installed as Maximum Leader. Iranian weapons supply Russian forces, and Chinese technology likely assists their development.
The Biden administration’s diffuse and domestically focused response is inadequate and dangerous.