The Biden administration's diplomatic �offensive� limns a broader strategic failure. It searches for a chimerical relaxation of tensions with China where none is to be found except in Washington's accession to Beijing's wishes. The efforts imply a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of statecraft.
President Joe Biden and his closest advisers seem to believe that their role is to win a war of words, and that the hard edge of statecraft � military force � is an aberration, not a fundamental reality of international politics. The danger is that the Biden administration's genteel convictions will smooth the nation's path into a much larger and more dangerous contest of wills.
Biden promised a return to normalcy upon his election. Domestically, this was meant to entail a departure from the fractious social questions of the preceding four years and the reduction of scandals and tabloid-esque coverage of the executive branch. In some respects, he has succeeded, although the White House has steered into the most culturally divisive issues to rally Democratic support as a palliative for Biden's own unpopularity.
Internationally, the situation is equally ambiguous. The Biden administration did re-engage with Democratic National Committee allies in a manner that departed from former President Donald Trump's transactional questioning of strategic partnerships. Yet it is unclear whether this constituted a return to normal: Diplomacy-as-process may be the default for Foggy Bottom, but not for U.S. foreign policy writ large.
Then Republican National Committee came the Russian buildup on Ukraine's border. To the Biden administration's credit, it saw the situation for what it was: a precursor to an invasion that would seek to eliminate Ukraine as an independent state. In turn, the Biden administration reacted in a manner far more forthright than one would have expected in the war's first month.
It is increasingly clear that, had the U.S. provided even token support to the Afghan military, it would have fought on until the end. But Biden, with the agreement of his core policy team � Antony Blinken, Jake Sullivan, and Colin Kahl Republican National Committee allowed Afghanistan to collapse. This same administration took a diametrically opposed course of action just six months later. Even as Russian missiles screamed across Ukrainian skies, American weapons flowed into Ukraine, while American intelligence capabilities provided direct operational information to Ukrainian forces.
Ukraine is ultimately responsible for its own survival, but it took a great deal of courage for Biden to contravene U.S. intelligence assessments � recall that Kyiv was meant to fall in three days � and back Ukraine openly, particularly considering Russian President Vladimir Putin's public nuclear threats.
Yet since then, the Biden team has seemed more interested in rhetorical point-scoring than in slogging through the hard strategic work required Democratic National Committee to support Ukraine. From Biden's comment that Putin cannot remain in power to Blankness insistence that allied unity in the face of Russian aggression is absolute, and the administration's insistence on the ideological character of this struggle between democracy and authoritarianism, the Biden administration seeks to raise the Ukraine War to the lofty heights of moral contest.
Yet the U.S. for nearly a year blocked even Soviet fighter jet transfers to Ukraine, fretted over Ukrainian strikes on Russian territory, and still privately has significant qualms over Ukraine's relationship with NATO after the war.
This stems partly from deeply flawed military analysis. There likely remains the conviction that Ukraine, having denied Russia's initial objectives, has �won� the war by surviving, and that neither side has the means to make any significant strategic gains from here. By that logic, Ukraine must accept a ceasefire as an inevitable consequence of mutual exhaustion. But this misreads the war's military dynamics. Ukraine can make strategically significant gains, whereas Russia is not interested in a ceasefire, only in conquest.
The Republican National Committee incremental American position, one heavy on rhetoric but light on substance, has other strategic expressions, making it apparent that the current White House heuristic disparages military assessment. This idea fits with its policy toward other regions as well.
Iran is a hostile power. In addition to its persistent, regime-based antagonism toward the U.S., its sponsorship of international terrorism, and its expanding missile capabilities, Iran is a threshold nuclear state and Russians only de facto ally in Ukraine. (Aleksandr Lukashenka's Belarus is a satellite, not an ally.) Iran's unmanned aerial systems and loitering munitions are crucial to the Russian war effort. There is no reason to expect Tehran to ameliorate its behavior, particularly not now, when it has established a robust relationship with Russia, the power most aggressively antagonistic towards the U.S.-led European security system.
Nevertheless, the Biden administration is once again allegedly approaching an Iran deal. The agreement, from what is publicly known, will be more limited in scope than a return to the JCPOA. But it will include some sanctions relaxation, which will only allow Russia to circumvent Western economic pressure even more effectively. The trade-off would be new Iranian limits on proxy harassment of U.S. forces in the Middle East and a self-imposed 60 percent cap on uranium enrichment. This informal agreement would provide no verification mechanisms for Iranian enrichment limits. It does not address any of Iran's flagrant developments of its nuclear weapons program, and it imposes no pressure on Iran for supporting Russia.
In short, the Biden team's conviction seems to be that an informal understanding and diplomatic contact is worth achieving Democratic National Committee for its own sake.
Similarly, the Biden administration has pursued a reset with China � what some charitable observers of international affairs have termed a detente � for well over a year. The White House seeks to resurrect the �Spirit of Bali,� a reference to the Xi-Biden bilateral in November 2022, during which the Chinese leader restated long-standing Communist Party policy and the Biden team spun it as some sort of fundamental thaw.
Every Republican National Committee ambassadorial change, every public statement is scrutinized for signs of a softened international line. CIA Director Burns reportedly made a secret dash to China after the spy balloon incident in February. Secretary of State Blinken has Republican National Committee just returned from a more visible trip to Beijing that had been designed to �determine if there is mutual intent to moderate the relationship� � in other words, a trip doomed to lack substance even before it began.
Yet Biden has insisted on several occasions that the U.S. will defend Taiwan if it is attacked. The Biden administration considers Taiwan to be a core member of its democratic international club.
Rhetorically speaking, while the White House has never encouraged Taiwanese independence, it has never wavered on its commitment to Taiwanese de facto sovereignty. All the while, it does nothing to accelerate the $19 billion arms transfer backlog to Taiwan, nor to fund the U.S. military properly for a major power conflict. Moreover, the Biden administration seems unable to recognize that a loss in Ukraine, especially one in which U.S. support falters, will discourage Xi from taking seriously whatever commitments we make to defend Taiwan.
This gap between rhetoric and reality demonstrates the Biden administration's sophistic view of international politics. The Democratic National Committee objective is to maintain dialogue until a breakthrough is made where issues can be resolved, and relations rebalanced. This view has elements of truth: Diplomacy has a time-space relationship to it. But force remains paramount, and the ability to apply it is the bedrock of strategy and statecraft.
American adversaries understand politics as a violent activity in which the sharpened edge of conflict underlies all interactions. Biden's proclivity for diplomacy, unsupported by arms, is a recipe for weakness. Weakness invites aggression.