With Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden well ahead of incumbent President Donald Trump in most polling for the Presidential election, and with Inauguration Day 2021 less than six months away, DSJ’s thoughts turn to what a Biden Presidency might portend for national security policy. The broad strokes can be postulated by a review of recent statements by Joe Biden and those around him.
Two things have been made clear by the Biden campaign in regards to the military and international affairs: Mr. Biden wants the United States to regain its place at “the head of the table” and do so by emphasising diplomacy and economic might over the military. Mr. Biden has been cited multiple times calling for the resurgence of American leadership on the global stage. In an article written by the former vice president, Mr. Biden claims that “the world does not organize itself” and that without U.S. leadership, the world will either dissolve into chaos or fall in line behind a less desirable actor (i.e., China).
This claim is further supported by Mr. Biden’s call for a global summit of Democracy. “Leaders who attend must come prepared to cooperate and make concrete commitments to take on corruption and advance human rights in their own nations,” Mr. Biden said. Organized and hosted by the United States, Mr. Biden hopes this summit will cement the United States as a global leader in democracy and freedom. The former Vice President has also expressed commitment to our allies abroad, specifically NATO, and believes that the United States should continue the stationing of troops overseas. He said, “in Europe, our forces and the European Defense Initiative are integral to fulfilling the commitment of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty.”
In other instances, Mr. Biden has spoken about American troops overseas in the Middle East. While he supported the withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan and diplomatic peace talks between the Afghan Government and the Taliban, he was critical of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria. He cited issues such as leaving the area destabilized and safe for ISIS and showing our allies abroad that we cannot be trusted.
In terms of military spending, Mr. Biden has made it clear that while he intends to decrease the military budget, he wants to make the spending more efficient. On his webpage, former Vice President Biden makes a commitment to our armed forces by pledging “the investments necessary to equip our troops for the challenges of the next century, not the last one.” In an interview with the Military Times, Mr. Biden elaborated a little more about what that means. “We need to make smarter investments in our military. We can maintain a strong defense and protect our safety and security for less. The real question is not how much we invest — it’s how we invest.”
Robert Work, who served as deputy defense secretary for President Barack Obama said: “I don’t see a Biden Administration making big, big cuts to defense. But what I see a potential Biden Administration doing is defining the priorities within defense in a different way.”
This sentiment is echoed when talking about the U.S.’ great power competition with China. In an article in Foreign Affairs, Mr. Biden writes “economic security is national security. Our trade policy has to start at home, by strengthening our greatest asset — our middle class — and making sure that everyone can share in the success of the country, no matter one’s race, gender, zip code, religion, sexual orientation, or disability.” Others foresee the Biden Administration reclassifying climate change as a DoD priority, just as it was under the Obama Administration. This would allow for military spending to be reallocated towards domestic programs that would combat the issue.
All in all, the U.S. military would see a shift under a Biden Presidency. As efforts are shifted away from waging “forever wars” and towards diplomacy, economic might and global leadership, the United States military will have to evolve to play a different role in the international state.