Bret Stephens is in full fearmongering mode:
Now, in the aftermath of Saigon redux, every enemy will draw the lesson that the United States is a feckless power, with no lasting appetite for defending the Pax Americana that is still the basis for world order. And every ally – Taiwan, Ukraine, the Baltic States, Israel, Japan – will draw the lesson that it is on its own in the face of its enemies. The Biden Doctrine means the burial of the Truman Doctrine.
Since everyone wants to make the comparison with Saigon and the fall of South Vietnam, it is instructive to look at what did and didn’t happen after 1975. Every other U.S. ally did not draw the lesson that it is on its own. Formal US allies did not change their allegiances, nor did they assume that the US wouldn’t fulfill its commitments to them. Just a few years after the fall of Saigon, the US terminated its defense treaty with Taiwan, and once again nothing of the sort happened. It’s as if other governments don’t judge US reliability as the hawks claim they do. Hawks are unable to see the world as these other states do, and so they project their reactions onto these governments to lend their complaints more weight. The trouble is that the allies and clients mostly don’t see things the way they do, and don’t draw sweeping conclusions about US reliability everywhere from its decision to end involvement in one conflict. When you see hawks holding forth about the dangers of losing credibility, understand that they are promoting a propaganda message and not offering serious analysis.
Hawkish credibility claims are annoying because they are both sweeping and extremely vague. According to them, the entire alliance system is now in jeopardy because the US ended its part in an unwinnable war. But they never spell out what that means in practice. Stephens says that allies and clients will “draw the lesson” that they are on their own, but what is the practical significance of that? What are these states going to do in the future that they aren’t doing now? If the hawks are right about this (they’re not), how would they prove it? If the other states were losing confidence in US guarantees, we should expect to see fairly significant and sudden changes in the military spending and shifting alignments of many countries. If these states now fear that they are “on their own” (they don’t), they ought to be taking more responsibility for their own security. If past experience is any guide, that isn’t going to happen. Warning about lost credibility is a cheap and easy way to attack a president’s decision when you can’t really defend your own policy preferences.
Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.