Kori Schake faults Biden for not being belligerent and militaristic enough:
The administration appears to lack an effective strategy for the dangers posed by a nuclear-armed North Korea beyond the empty statements that we will not allow North Korea to have nuclear weapons, though experts believe the leadership in Pyongyang may have dozens of them. Or look to Iran, where the administration pursued a strategy known as “more for more” – more sanctions relief for more constraints on the Iranian nuclear program – and yet it cannot even get a return to the 2015 terms from Iran. Moreover, war with Iran is surely a non-starter for a president who abandoned Afghanistan, and is effectively indifferent to the fate of Iraq and Syria.
Some of Schake’s criticisms are fair enough, but most of the column is just a litany of problems, some of them intractable, that aren’t going to be solved by throwing more money at the Pentagon. She complains that “[w]e have let Russian threats determine our actions,” as if it were a bad thing that Biden has tried to limit the risk of direct conflict with a nuclear-armed state. The president’s stated desire to avoid WWIII is presented as a weakness rather than evidence of minimal sanity.
I agree that Biden lacks an effective strategy for North Korea, but the same could be said for every one of his predecessors going back at least to Bush. Schake does not say what she thinks Biden should do to manage the threat from North Korea, so we are left to guess what she thinks an “effective strategy” would look like. My view is that “maximum pressure” has obviously failed and the U.S. has to revise its goals downward to more achievable ends of arms control rather than disarmament, but presumably hawks would not find that solution appealing.
It is also true that there is a gap between Biden’s Taiwan rhetoric and US capabilities, but the right way to close that gap is to scale back the rhetoric. It is a mistake to try to back up unwise statements with even more military spending. It is much easier and smarter to amend the president’s statements than it is to spend a fortune to prepare for wars that the US shouldn’t be fighting. Instead of inventing a new security commitment that the US doesn’t need, the US should stop chipping away at the old status quo.
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.