The theme of Joe Biden’s governance of America now a year into his term is one of perpetual or perceived weakness on all sides. Whether it’s his approach to geopolitical foes like Russia and China, his feckless response to the pandemic, or his disastrous withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the Biden playbook is one wherein America is always perceived to be in the weakest possible position.
Strength is impossible when the White House operates from the confines of a straitjacket.
This theme of weakness is an expansion of one of the worst characteristics of the Obama administration. At the beginning of Obama’s first term, the United States was operating in a position of retreat across the globe. Obama’s highlights included the much-maligned apology tour, followed by the “Russian reset,” which all but declared the administration would spend all its time failing to understand or check Russia.
At the time, the late great columnist Charles Krauthammer observed, “The weathervanes of conventional wisdom are engaged in another round of angst about America in decline. New theories, old slogans: Imperial overstretch. The Asian awakening. The post-American world. Inexorable forces beyond our control bringing the inevitable humbling of the world hegemon.”
Among these crosscurrents, my thesis is simple: The question of whether America is in decline cannot be answered yes or no. There is no yes or no. Both answers are wrong, because the assumption that somehow there exists some predetermined inevitable trajectory, the result of uncontrollable external forces, is wrong. Nothing is inevitable. Nothing is written. For America today, decline is not a condition. Decline is a choice.
This basic observation, both historically and strategically, is true. In foreign affairs, America is weak because her leaders choose narrow-mindedness to visionary thinking, apathy to action, and weakness to strength. And it’s showing up prominently again, as the geopolitical foes of the United States seek to assert themselves against American interests.
Case in point is the flare-up between Russia and Ukraine, and now including Kazakhstan. The Wall Street Journal reports:
The flood of Russian troops into Kazakhstan to help shore up the embattled government sends a clear signal to both the West and other former Soviet republics: Russian President Vladimir Putin will brook no threat to what he views as Russia’s inviolable sphere of influence.
Russia’s sudden move even has China watching with a wary eye. Meanwhile, China is performing its own saber-rattling over Taiwan. It’s notable, therefore, that China and Russia are not on the same page regarding these expansionist tendencies.
Where is the Biden administration? The Journal says the White House is “eyeing significant financial punishments and targeted technology sanctions if Russia sends troops across the Ukrainian border, while likely avoiding the broadest energy and bank sanctions.”
The problem with trying to push back against Russia in any meaningful way? Europe is in the middle of an energy crisis. Inflation is hammering all countries in Europe and constrains the United States’ ability to push Russia. And that’s because Russia supplies 40% of all energy to European countries. According to CNBC’s reporting, Europe is hostage to Russia during this time.
The administration is talking tough, of course. “There are two paths before us,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday on CNN. “There’s a path of dialogue and diplomacy to try to resolve some of these differences and avoid a confrontation. The other path is confrontation and massive consequences for Russia if it renews its aggression on Ukraine.”
But the issue is this: Unless the Biden White House can reverse conditions on the ground for European countries and free them from the grip of Russia, there isn’t much anyone can do. Biden can do some small-ball stuff, but nothing that impacts Russia’s decision-making. Military force is ruled out, and the economic pressures that could make Russia blink are off the table because those policies influence European and American consumers.
Energy policy and the refusal of the Biden administration to unleash the United States oil production sector as a global power impacts our foreign policy. Oil matters. The world is not in an electric world. And with the Luddite left refusing to accept game-changing solutions like nuclear power, the world is even more beholden to tyrants.
In short, decline is a choice. America is a superpower, and her leadership has refused to acknowledge reality. By doing the most moronic things, like constraining oil and natural gas production and shutting down nuclear power plants, Biden and the left are weakening America. Power abhors a vacuum, and Vladimir Putin’s Russia is rushing in to fill the void and extract even more concessions from the West.
We are weak because our president is weak. It doesn’t have to be that way. Biden has chosen weakness and decline. We will reap those consequences until a new paradigm or set of leaders gets elected to the White House.