The Biden Doctrine abandons America's common welfare

All the president's woes stem from the Biden Doctrine.  Whether we are speaking of a lack of deterrence in Ukraine, a potential loss of that country to Russia, the failure to control the border, or soaring crime in the inner cities, at the bottom of it all is the philosophy behind the Biden Doctrine.

So what is it?  Last April, President Biden laid down the doctrine during his Arlington Cemetery Address:

How many more generations of America's daughters and sons would you have me send to fight Afghans? How many more lives — American lives — is it worth? How many endless rows of headstones at Arlington National Cemetery?

Biden doubled down during his State of the Union address, saying, "Let me be clear: our forces are not engaged and will not engage in conflict with Russian forces in Ukraine."

This reveals the essence of the Biden Doctrine.  In its general form, the doctrine holds that the rights and interests of the individual must supersede those of the group.

In security policy, for example, the doctrine prioritizes the fate of individual soldiers over national interest.  This is a liberal perspective that discounts the national welfare as a whole, and it serves both socialist and libertarian agendas.

The libertarian side considers the military to be hierarchical and oppressive by nature and, once the fighting starts, even volunteer soldiers are being asked to make unreasonable commitments — that is, potentially paying with their lives.  The socialist view accepts not only this premise, but that soldiers will tend to come from a politically powerless poor or middle class, with the rich and well educated exhorting their social inferiors to a war that they themselves would not fight.  From the socialist perspective, war is a patriarchal, capitalist exploitation of the vulnerable classes.

If liberalism is about the rights of the individual, conservatism is about the rights of the group (as I regularly note).  For the group to survive, some of its members must be delegated to its protection and, in doing so, put their lives on the line.  This may be voluntary, but, historically, armies are conscripted.  National interest calls for the group to coerce some of its members, principally fighting-age men, to defend the country.

Nowhere is the conflict between liberal and conservative ideologies more acute than in this arena.  Ordering soldiers to a conflict is profoundly illiberal, in that individuals are conscripted to fight and possibly die while the rest of society may hardly notice.  Such has been the case in every U.S. conflict since the Civil War: soldiers fought and died while civilian life went on, since World War II, essentially undisturbed.

This creates an understandable rancor in those forced to fight and for families seeing their boys put in harm's way.  As one irate reader wrote to me:

When are you leaving? Will you go fight and lay down your life for Ukraine and NATO? As long as someone else's neck is on the line, got it. Take a hike.

These are hard words, deeply felt.  Nevertheless, limiting policy discussions to those who are directly involved in fighting is unworkable.  The Washington political and defense establishment would be entirely unable to dispatch soldiers.  Joe Biden would have to don a flak jacket and man the Kyiv barricades before weighing in on NATO strategy.  Such a requirement would create paralysis and equate to unilateral disarmament as a practical matter.

Image: Joe Biden (edited). YouTube screen grab.

And yet, that is exactly what the Biden administration has done.  It has unilaterally disarmed the United States.  That is the Biden Doctrine, the same sentiment as my reader above: that the individual lives of U.S. military personnel should take absolute precedence over national security interests.  We will not fight if our soldiers could be hurt.

Those rulers bent on conquest, notably Russia's President Putin and Chinese President Xi, will interpret the Biden Doctrine as a green light for invasion to the extent that ex-post sanctions look like an acceptable price to pay.  The math worked for President Putin.  The Biden Doctrine has proven itself unable to deter invasion and provides no military remedy once the conflict has started, as is the situation in Ukraine today.

Even worse, the doctrine has encouraged President Putin not only to start a European war, but also to threaten nuclear strikes.  A focus on preventing battlefield deaths at all costs leaves the U.S. vulnerable to nuclear extortion.  Nuclear threats make sense when the opponent is easy to intimidate, and the Biden Doctrine is pre-emptive self-intimidation.  Unfortunately, such threats involve placing nuclear forces on alert — as President Putin has — thereby materially increasing the risk of nuclear war.

Biden's policy has proved an unqualified disaster, both at home and in Ukraine.  Until the president changes tack, Russia and China will continue to test our resolve in ever-escalating confrontations.

To avert catastrophe, the president must abandon the Biden Doctrine.

Steven Kopits is the president of Princeton Policy Advisors.

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