It's more than just pain at the pump

Despite the United States being energy independent when President Biden assumed office, we are now paying record prices for petroleum products that are contributing to near-record inflation once termed by his administration as only "transitory."  The mere fact that the president is now blaming Putin for the energy crisis and begging Saudi Arabia and Venezuela for gasoline illustrates his administration's extreme naïveté and disjointed energy and national security strategy.  Even if his administration desires to go "green," his means to achieve that goal are foolhardy, disjointed, and dangerous to our national security.

This is just the latest in a string of haphazard and impromptu policies that have sown confusion among our allies and projected weakness and indecision to Russia, China, and Iran.  Even though Iran may be overshadowed by Russia and China for the moment, if the Biden administration believes that Iran will not develop nuclear weapons and use them, it is extremely naïve.  If anything, Iran has learned that Ukraine should have maintained its nuclear arsenal to preclude a Russian invasion rather than dismantling it according to the Budapest Agreement under the assurance that its national sovereignty would be protected.  There's lesson that Iran will not soon forget.

Some fault Biden for not doing more to help the Ukrainians, some for doing too much and risking open war with a nuclear power.  What these critics share is the belief that Biden's contradictory, halfhearted, and constantly shifting military aid to Ukraine; the absence of any off-ramps for Russia; and total economic war on Moscow have been more dangerous than any clear, consistent, and integrated policy.

At this point, no one is sure what the Biden administration's plan is to help end the war in Ukraine, what it thinks a stable peace might look like, or even if regime change in Moscow is really off the table as a matter of White House policy.  Biden has announced no conditions for the easing of sanctions on Russia, articulated no vision for how Ukraine might "win," or what the end state might look like.

All this suggests that President Biden has no idea what the overriding American national interest is or what our national security strategy should be — in Ukraine, in Iran, in China, or anywhere else.  He seems only to have a vague sense that large and powerful countries should not invade their smaller and weaker neighbors.  But when they do, how should America respond?  What goals or national interests should guide our response?  What should our priorities be?  Biden and his advisers don't seem to know.

They had better figure it out, and soon.  What we need now is that which we have least: a proactive foreign and domestic policy that enables the United States to maintain its position of leadership on the world stage.

It may be pain at the pump now, but the larger issue is our lack of "soft power" and the strategic vision employed by all great powers.

Image: Richard Masoner, Cyclelicious.

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