President Biden’s official National Security Strategy, released this week, declares that we are in a “decisive decade” and that “the post-Cold War era is definitively over.” The document charts out a bold path for confronting “the existential challenge of our time.”
That challenge, naturally, is the climate crisis.
Presidents are required by law to publish a report explaining America’s national-security aims and the way in which Washington is working to secure them. The new Biden strategy lays out what we already knew to be the case — that this administration considers confronting climate change to be at least as much a priority as any of the true threats that Americans face.
The strategy mentions climate 63 times, but it only refers to China, or the PRC and Beijing, in 60 instances. Effectively, the document portrays the ongoing efforts by authoritarian powers to contest American strength and the international order to be as equally concerning as, or even slightly less worrying than, climate and other gauzily considered “transnational threats.”
The strategy asserts that “we have broken down the line between foreign policy and domestic policy,” which is true to some extent. Enabled by a global supply chain, the fentanyl crisis has destroyed families, and illegal immigration has its own destabilizing and damaging effects on communities. Although the strategy treats these issues very briefly, its domestic focus is primarily an excuse to boast about the Build Back Better package. It also touts the White House’s push on green energy, using woke cant. According to the strategy, “To ensure these efforts are durable and sustainable requires centering equity and inclusion, and partnering both with local partners and international bodies.”
Of course, all of this is absurd. The Chinese Communist Party is the most significant threat to American primacy on the world stage. In addition, Russian aggression in Eastern Europe is a near-term threat that Washington must meet.
The document does identify these twin challenges — that of a rising power in Beijing and a declining one in Moscow, both dangerous in different ways — as emblematic of great-power competition in the 21st century. It calls the threat from the Chinese regime “America’s most consequential geopolitical challenge” and points out that the People’s Liberation Army is “growing in strength and reach globally.” It also notes that “Russia poses an immediate and ongoing threat to the regional security order in Europe and it is a source of disruption and instability globally but it lacks the across the spectrum capabilities” at Beijing’s disposal.
Then it undercuts its warnings about the CCP by leaving the door open to cooperate with Beijing, as has been the administration’s wont since the start, and by neglecting to endorse providing sufficient resources to meet these threats. “By the 2030s,” the strategy warns, “the United States for the first time will need to deter two major nuclear powers, each of whom will field modern and diverse global and regional nuclear forces.”
Yet the strategy’s cursory — by comparison with the sections on climate — discussion of military modernization does not reflect a sense of urgency about enhancing our deterrence against foreign adversary powers. That’s wholly consistent with the anemic defense-spending proposals put forth by the White House in 2021 and 2022, and it betrays a lack of seriousness in dealing with the looming threats that the strategy describes.
Conservative foreign-policy experts with the Forum for American Leadership have issued their own alternative national-security strategy, which emphasizes the unparalleled threat posed by the “ethno-nationalist Leninist party state” in Beijing and advocates the corresponding investments in defense that logically follow.
In the coming months, Russia may well escalate its nuclear blackmail in the Ukraine war and throw Europe further into crisis, and, within the decade, Beijing may launch a military campaign across the Taiwan Strait. These are easily discerned real-world threats, attributable directly to hostile powers, with great dangers for U.S. security interests and perhaps its homeland.
Future generations of Americans may look back and wonder just why an American president wanted to prioritize anything else.