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Say No, Joe: On U.S. foreign policy, there’s no going back to the status quo

Authors: Benjamin H. Friedman and Stephen Wertheim

Affiliation: Defense Priorities, the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft

Organization/Publisher: Foreign Policy 

Date/Place: November 25, 2020/USA

Type of Literature: Article  

Word Count: 1719


Keywords: Biden’s Coming Administration, Restraint policy, the US Forever Wars, and End the Pursuit of Military Dominance




In this article, the authors warn the coming administration against adopting the same foreign policy adopted by previous administrations before Trump, which made the pursuit of global dominance its goal through strategic (overextended) expansion in the world, and getting involved in unnecessary and endless wars driven by the temptation that American power creates to interfere in others’ affairs and dominate them. This warning comes after the “attractive imagination” Biden promised regarding the restoration of US global leadership, in addition to the new team he chose for the coming administration; most of them held positions in previous Democratic administrations, i.e., they were part of the US foreign policy deteriorating situation the country has reached. Therefore, the authors try here to convince Biden that he stands before a decisive opportunity to create a path of his own in the country’s foreign policy and different from previous administrations (such as the one he promised during the election campaign) that preserves the US’ global status. Thus, the article presents five key areas in which it urges the incoming administration to exercise a restraint approach so that “the US clock” does not turn back. First, the Biden administration should not pursue global military dominance, as the world has changed and other powers have emerged and have imposed multi-polarity. Moreover, the pursuit of hegemony has brought endless wars, enormous defense costs, and even more risks to the American people. Therefore, Biden must work side by side with allies to create a stable balance of power and encourage them to similarly expand their power as adversaries do, rather than placing the US on the front line in every potential conflict. Second, Biden must pragmatically and decisively end the US “forever wars.” This is not limited to just returning the troops home but also ending the war on terror. The United States has achieved its goal of destroying ISIS. So, local powers can deal with their remnants. Third, the US Army cannot police the Middle East, and Biden should not be asked to attempt to do so, as this is not in the US’ interest. The region is also witnessing rivalry for influence between its middle powers. Therefore, no single one will threaten hegemony over the region or threaten its oil supplies. These are the most important issues for Washington. The authors recommend the pursuit of “evenhanded diplomacy” to encourage Middle Eastern powers to “share the neighborhood.” Fourth, Biden must resist NATO’s expansion, as countries such as Ukraine and Georgia joining NATO could provoke a dangerous response from Russia. The Biden administration should welcome the initiatives of France and other European countries to assume primary responsibility for dealing with the security challenges in their region, as this would reduce the US’ costs and prevent the risk of being drawn into a third world war. Fifth, the Biden administration must reduce the intensity of US militarism towards China, as Beijing remains a key partner for Washington in facing the coming pandemics, climate change and other more direct threats to the American people than the specter of an armed attack. Therefore, the authors call on the Biden administration to reserve room for dialogue and cooperation with Beijing and prevent military competition from defining the nature of bilateral relations between the two countries. In conclusion, the authors explain how the US’ pursuit of military dominance over the past three decades has produced numerous diseases (Trump did not create them, but rather revealed them and increased their pace). So, Biden stands before a crucial opportunity to design his own new course in the country’s foreign policy after decades of decline.


By: Djallel Khechib, CIGA  Senior Research Associate



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