by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Russia has invaded a country on NATO’s borders, its leader has repeatedly invoked the specter of nuclear war, and its military is mercilessly bombing civilian targets. China, meanwhile, is ramping up its defense spending, has overtaken the United States in some important areas of defense technology, and just signed a treaty of “friendship” with Russia. Elsewhere, North Korea is testing missiles that can reach the U.S., Iran continues to be a malign actor in the Middle East, and terrorist groups have not gone away.
Yet in its latest budget request for defense, the Biden administration has sought to downplay the U.S. military’s role in national security, and the resources it has asked for are insufficient for even that reduced role. In seeking to diminish the dominance of military elements in American strategy, the Biden administration has overshot the target: Defense is nowhere to be found in its thinking about strategy; defense serves merely as a supply depot for other militaries, and a cash cow for other priorities. In sum, the strategy is wrong, but even if it were right, the administration has not adequately paid for it.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin describes the strategy as “a new way of approaching deterrence,” a method known as “integrated deterrence.” …
… What is different—and mistaken—about the Biden strategy is the absence of defense. According to The Washington Post, “Senior Pentagon officials are brimming with newfound confidence in American power,” and believe that their response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine amounts to a successful example of integrated deterrence. Yet a central element of the Biden administration’s policy has been repeatedly and publicly assuring Russia that the U.S. military will not defend Ukraine.