The Biden Administration Does Not Have a Strategy
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is not picking up Joe Biden’s phone calls. How did we get to such an embarrassing moment in history? The United States has been the security guarantor for the Middle Eastern country since the end of World War II, in exchange for the Saudi’s continual provision of cheap oil and a pledge that the country would use the U.S. dollar to conduct all oil-related transactions with other nations. The Saudi kingdom’s flagrant violations of human rights against its own citizens were highlighted by later U.S. administrations time and again, but those demarches never seriously put the dominance of the dollar in jeopardy. Apart from the British pound, which was suffering a great deal following the end of the war, global markets had no viable alternative currency to trust. With the rise of China following the post-Cold War era, the U.S. finally had an economic competitor that posed a real threat. However, our leaders have been slow to shift back into the realm of thinking geopolitically.
The United States must always stand for supporting democracy, liberty, and the inalienability of universal human rights. Our Constitution enshrines these ideals in the fabric of our daily lives, and yes, we often take these truths for granted. The values of fairness, equality, and freedom of expression remain the most coveted concepts in modern society. In fact, these values should remain as America’s beacon in guiding foreign and domestic policy. However, U.S. policymakers should also remain cognizant of the complexities in policy formation and have a clear-eyed understanding of how geopolitical dynamics affect American interests. If leaders stray too far to either end of the calculus, American interests will inevitably be put at risk and U.S. citizens will suffer the brunt of the repercussions. Sadly, this is already happening.
In 2020, approximately 70% of the nations covered in the Democracy Index had recorded a decline in democratic governance and that trend only continued through 2021. Unfortunately, this is the world in which we must operate. Our leaders need to approach policymaking with a realistic and comprehensive strategy, one that encompasses a dual values-based and geopolitical approach. This is not a new concept by any means. The U.S. has largely employed this policy framework following the end of WW II, and thankfully some remnants of this strategy are still utilized today. Take for example the Russia-Ukraine war. The administration is engaging in a values-based approach by providing a democracy with at least some of the material it needs to sustain its independence. On the geopolitical front, it is not intervening with the use of direct force, as this would cause unimaginable security consequences for all of the West. Despite this somewhat positive example, the Biden administration has largely ignored the geopolitical part of the equation in ensuring that America’s interests are protected.
The current U.S. administration’s blunders are only mounting and already include the following: a complete lack of strategy for energy security, the chaotic exit from Afghanistan, a softening on Chinese aggressiveness by abandoning the Department of Justice’s “China Initiative,” and rising inflation that is swiftly decreasing the living standards of average Americans. The administration seeks to blame the problem on Russia or various supply chains issues while refusing to admit that its own reckless government printing and directionless infusion of capital into the economy, combined with its nonsensical policy of cutting domestic oil production, are to blame. These issues are the result of an administration that has either a lack of understanding or worse, great contempt, for realist geopolitical strategy. The Saudi example shows weakness in current American strategic thinking and a deficiency of reason within the sectors of policy formation. In fact, this weakness emboldens autocratic regimes’ messaging that the West weaponizes human rights issues to achieve its interests and as a result, often fails in its goals. This madness needs to be put to an end.
The U.S. has the ability to immediately cut inflationary prices within the gas and oil sectors by engaging in short-term deals with our Canadian and Latin American partners, including Mexico, which has the fourth-largest oil reserves in the Western hemisphere. Domestic production has also been adversely influenced by the environmental lobby, which in turn has been the target of foreign messaging operations aimed at destroying U.S. energy production. Media reports have recently outlined Russian campaigns to fund the green environmental lobby in an effort to increase our dependence on foreign oil. This is an example of the U.S. administration, once again, being blinded by its own misguided desire to solely focus on the values-based side of the policy equation.
It is high time we make the necessary short-term energy deals with our hemispheric neighbors while starting to “turn on” the pipes domestically. One can hope that the current administration will learn its lesson and begin to account for the very real consequences that citizens will suffer as a result of ignoring realist geopolitical principles. However, given its track record of supporting an idealistic policy that bears no concrete benefit for the public, this remains doubtful. We elect our leaders with the hope that they truly understand and are willing to protect our interests domestically and overseas. We deserve leaders that are willing to think practically and set out strategies that bolster, not hinder, the United States’ economic, energy, and security sectors.
M. Roberts is an intelligence professional in the U.S. Government.