A New Direction: A Foreign Policy Playbook on Military Restraint for the Biden Team

03 Dec 2020

A New Direction: A Foreign Policy Playbook on Military Restraint for the Biden Team

By the Quincy Institute

December 3, 2020

https://quincyinst.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/A-New-Direction-Restraint-Playbook.pdf

Introduction

 

Two decades of endless war and a bloated Pentagon budget that has proven useless in preventing Covid–19 deaths, now 270,000 and counting, are a jarring reminder that America’s foreign policy is thoroughly broken: It actually makes America and Americans less safe. 

Successive administrations have deployed the military in a costly, counterproductive, and indiscriminate manner, normalizing war and treating armed dominance as an end in itself. In consequence, the foreign policies of the United States are detached from any defensible conception of U.S. interests and from a decent respect for the rights and dignity of humankind. 

Marginal adjustments to the current approach will prove insufficient. A deeper rethinking of American foreign policy is warranted. This must be an undertaking that puts the well-being of the American people ahead of ambitions to dominate the globe.

President-elect Joe Biden appears to recognize the need for a serious reorientation. His just-named national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, recently said that Biden has tasked his foreign policy team with “reimagining our national security for the unprecedented combination of crises we face at home and abroad,” including pandemics and the climate crisis. Moreover, Sullivan said that American foreign policy has to be judged by a basic question: Does it “make life better, easier, and safer” for Americans at home? Our foreign policy, in Sullivan’s words, has to deliver for American families. 

U.S. foreign policy exists to secure the safety and well-being of the American people while respecting the rights and dignity of all people.

We agree. And in that spirit, the Quincy Institute proposes an American foreign policy in line with the principles that guide our work: military restraint and responsible statecraft.  

• Responsible statecraft serves the public interest: U.S. foreign policy exists to secure the safety and well-being of the American people while respecting the rights and dignity of all people. Foreign policy should therefore derive from serious consideration of the public interest and reflect the diversity of American society; to succeed, it can no longer be driven by the preferences of a narrow elite in Washington.

• Responsible statecraft engages the world: The United States should engage with the world, and the essence of engagement is peaceful cooperation among peoples — not war or domination. 

• Responsible statecraft builds a peaceful world: The United States should respect established international laws and norms, discourage irresponsible and destabilizing actions by others, and seek to coexist with competitors. The United States need not seek military supremacy in all places, at all costs, for all time.

• Responsible statecraft abhors war: Any use of force should occur only as a last resort. The U.S. military exists to defend the people and territory of the United States, not to act as a global police force. 

• Responsible statecraft is democratic: The American people have the right and responsibility to participate in the making of U.S. foreign policy, and Congress must fulfill its duties in the foreign policy sphere, neither tolerating the usurpation of its Constitutional role nor abdicating its authority to declare war.

This document spells out how the incoming Biden administration should embrace these principles in five specific contexts: China and East Asia, Afghanistan, the Greater Middle East, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. These fresh approaches will meet the challenge of reimagining our national security and ensuring that it delivers for the American people.