In the aftermath of the abject U.S. failure in Afghanistan, it would seem that clearly and convincingly demonstrating American power is the only reasonable course now open to President Biden – That is, if he is interested in countering the now prevailing judgment that the U.S. is a paper tiger and an unreliable ally, unwilling to do what it takes to win. That The President would want to do so should be a no-brainer, given the key role looming America power must perforce continue to play in the international arena.
Afghanistan, and before it, Vietnam, may have taught us about the limits to American power in the context of a popular insurgency seeking to topple an unpopular and corrupt government and military. But it is still possible for the U.S. to skillfully pick its fights and indicate where and when its power will be exercised.
The most pressing place to start is Iran. The Biden Administration is offering all sorts of sweeteners to get Iran to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal, which was supposed to restrict Iran’s nuclear program. Yet Iran continues to dilly-dally and make wild demands seemingly without any realistic hope of achieving them, in order to buy more time.
Secretary of State Blinken and other officials have called Iran out on this, noting that Iran is daily making such strides towards a nuclear capacity that the point will soon be reached where any further restrictions on Iranian advances will be meaningless. However, nobody is apparently willing to urge the obvious course of surgical military strikes to deal with the problem in real time.
Not only would such an approach directly address the critical nuclear issue, but also whether the specter of American power will continue to inform such things as the Abraham Accords, which represent the determination of Israel and some of its Arab neighbors to form, among other things, a cooperating bloc to counter the threat of Iranian depredations.
An Op-Ed in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal (“Iran Goes On The Offensive As The U.S. Retreats,” by Jonathan Speyer) underscores that there is little time left for President Biden to make a move. Speyer lists, in chilling and compelling detail, almost two dozen examples of current Iranian efforts, both directly and through proxies, to unleash violence in the Mideast as it senses weakness in its adversaries.
And this is all to say nothing the kinds of conclusions about the future role of the U.S. around the world that the Chinese and the Russians are now coming to, post-Afghanistan.