In President Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress, military issues figured as an afterthought. Yet implicit in his presentation was a potential shift in basic U.S. policy from activism to restraint. The central purpose of American military power, he announced, is “not to start a conflict, but to prevent one”—and not, by extension, to embroil the United States in wars that never seem to end. Here was an inkling of modified strategic priorities.
Biden’s recent announcement that the U.S. war in Afghanistan will definitively end by September 11, 2021 had also hinted at ringing down the curtain on the forever wars. An era defined by open-ended global conflict is ending, Biden suggested. A new era has begun. By extension, he declared it time “for American troops to come home,” a statement offered without caveat or qualification.
What role should the troops play going forward? Implicit in Biden’s Afghanistan announcement and in his presentation to Congress is the suggestion that the U.S. penchant for military action during recent decades requires revision. On that score, Biden should articulate a new doctrine on the use of force.
Present-day U.S. practice combines elements of a disastrous Bush Doctrine and a deeply flawed Obama Doctrine. The former, conceived in the wake of 9/11, asserts a prerogative of waging preventive war to overthrow regimes that the United States deems intolerable. The latter finds expression in a campaign of assassinations planned, authorized, and executed in secret.
Read the full article in The American Conservative.