More On: Biden
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President Biden should move security duties from the US to its defense welfare beneficiaries, rather than putting Americans' lives at danger for longer periods of time and increasing America's debt.
You'd think Uncle Sam didn't give a damn about anything if you watched the Biden administration. Washington is pouring more money into Ukraine, preparing to defend two more European states, planning an Asia trip to strengthen US ties, dispatching troops to fight Somali Islamists once more, and petitioning the new ruler of the United Arab Emirates to let America better serve him.
Despite this, the United States is practically bankrupt. The national debt has already surpassed the post-World War II record of 100 percent of GDP. Even when COVID fades, annual deficits will remain around $1 trillion. Democratic activists continue to encourage the government to expand the federal soup line by forgiving a large portion of college debt. And the Baby Boomers are continuing to retire, resulting in a red ink tsunami in the future years.
Despite the seeming chaos and strife in the world, America remains remarkably secure. In the Western Hemisphere, there are no severe security risks. The obstacles that America faces from regimes it doesn't like, such as Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Mexico, are minor annoyances in comparison to the challenges that most other countries endure, including those on Uncle Sam's naughty list.
Indeed, when the Biden administration dispatched a delegation to Caracas to discuss the potential of lifting sanctions and bringing Venezuelan oil back into the market, it conceded as much. The United States has been unable to overthrow the Maduro regime, but most Americans are unaware of this. Due to the lack of a competing power, much alone one of enormous power, US policymakers are free to meddle around the world.
Africa is both a land of opportunity and a continent of sadness. Somalia is a shell of its former self, having been harmed by the Cold War battle between the Soviet Union and the United States. President Joe Biden is redeploying American troops to what is left of that country. His mission was to take on the al Shabab Islamist group and its leadership. President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw was long overdue. Unfortunately, as noted by Charlie Savage and Eric Schmitt in the New York Times, Biden's decision "will resuscitate an open-ended American counterterrorism operation that has amounted to a slow-burn war across three administrations." That is not a strategy for success. Washington should defer to Somalis and their neighbors, who are already participating in the crisis through the African Union.
Worse, and unquestionably more humiliating, is the administration's kowtowing to the UAE and Saudi Arabia. For decades, the United States has sent troops to serve as royal bodyguards. During the Cold War, when the Carter administration was concerned that the Soviet Union may try to limit the West's oil supply, there was plausible justification. That hazy potential, which was never taken seriously, vanished a long time ago.
Defense is one thing, but the US has equipped and supported the Saudi-led, UAE-backed barbaric assault on Yemen, making American leaders complicit in a never-ending series of war crimes. Embarrassingly, the administration apologized for failing to act quickly enough to safeguard Abu Dhabi from Yemeni reprisal for the deaths of thousands of civilians. And neither state is repaying previous US benefits, rejecting Washington's frantic pleas to increase oil production.
The United States should advise the Saudi and Emirati royal families to deploy their costly arsenals for defense rather than aggression. In reality, the most serious threat to those governments currently is from within—how many Emiratis or Saudis want to die for a privileged royal elite? Allow these governments to work together and with Israel to bring Iran back into balance, or better yet, establish a modus vivendi that allows Sunnis and Shiites to coexist together.
The President and Congress set aside $40 billion for Ukraine, nearly as much as Russia spends on its military each year and more than any European country except France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. This is also significantly more than the Europeans have given Kyiv, despite the fact that their combined economy is nearly as great as America's, and they have long neglected to take their own defense seriously. Russia's attack on Ukraine evidently matters to them far more than it does to the United States. In the midst of Europe's ostensible military awakening, they should lead the charge in supporting Kyiv. So far, the crisis that is meant to rekindle European military spending has cost Americans significantly more.
And with Finland and Sweden's applications to join NATO, things are only going to get worse. Neither has been endangered by Moscow, which is still embroiled in the Ukraine conflict and on the verge of losing it. Finland already has a capable military, and Kyiv has demonstrated how Europe can protect itself by allocating significant resources to territorial defense. Europeans should concentrate on their own security rather than going off the beaten path, as they did in Libya a decade ago.
Neither Stockholm nor Helsinki are crucial to the United States, which should be the basic requirement for issuing a security guarantee by Washington. That is why, despite repeated assurances, the US and the rest of Europe have refused to admit Ukraine to NATO. No one was willing to fight for Kyiv against a nuclear-armed Russia. There is no better cause than Finland or Sweden to go to war with a nuclear-armed Russia.
And it would be primarily America's responsibility to bear this load. It would not be Montenegro, Spain, or Italy that would send troops to defend Finland along its 810-mile border with Russia. If Moscow utilized nuclear weapons, neither Germany, North Macedonia, nor Greece would reply. Adding two more countries to NATO would increase the military burden on the United States even more. President Dwight D. Eisenhower urged the United States against becoming like "a contemporary Rome protecting the distant boundaries with our legions." When will Europe take on this load if it does not do so when it sees a credible military threat?
There's also Asia to consider. The President is also eager to rebuild America's partnerships in the region, which will entail more spending. He welcomed ASEAN members, who represent Southeast Asian countries, to the United States before heading to Asia for summits with members of the Quad and South Korea's incoming president. Friendly regional nations uniting to limit the People's Republic of China is the ideal reaction to China.
That would, however, necessitate them spending more money on their militaries and taking responsibility for day-to-day security concerns. After decades of relying on the US to perform the military heavy lifting, Japan appears to be only now ready to spend more than 1% of GDP on its military. The ruling party is considering a two-percentage-point increase, but this is unlikely unless Washington makes it clear that it will no longer be the region's guardian. It is Japan's responsibility to defend the uninhabited but contentious Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands from the PRC.
South Korea, as well. Because the potential threat is greater, it has a higher protection responsibility. The Republic of Korea has a GDP of nearly 50 times that of North Korea, twice the population, and a massive technological advantage. And while the ROK has survived the COVID epidemic, the North is facing a potentially devastating infectious tsunami now that the Omicron strain has broken through its locked borders. Why should Washington have an army division stationed on the peninsula? Why not construct and deploy ROK units to fill the gaps currently covered by US forces?
Foreign and military policy should be tailored to the situation. During the Cold War, when friendly governments were recuperating from World War II and both the USSR and the PRC posed substantial military concerns, a stronger US role was required. That world has passed us by.
That isn't to say that Washington is immune to security threats. They are, however, not the same. Above all, friendly states can do a lot more for themselves and their communities. President Biden should move security duties from the US to its defense welfare beneficiaries, rather than putting Americans' lives at danger for longer periods of time and increasing America's debt.