What Biden’s comments on Iran deal say about America’s intentions
As the possibility of war looms in Ukraine and Taiwan, a recognizable cry can be heard all over Washington:Alleged loss of US credibility following President Joe Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan emboldened Russia and China. But this predictable panic is only expressed when the United States fails to bomb a country; the breaking of international agreements by the United States rarely causes the same hysteria. Our expectations of American reliability have become so degraded that we now assume that the United States will renege on international agreements when a new party comes to power. Yet Washington’s so-called Credibility Crowd says little or nothing when we betray our signature.
Washington’s so-called Credibility Crowd says little or nothing when we betray our signature.
The exaggerated panic of credibility is a tradition deeply rooted in Washington’s foreign policy establishment. When North Korea crossed the 38th parallel in 1950President Harry Truman was concerned about the confidence of European allies in America’s commitment to protect Western Europe. President Lyndon Johnson believed that the withdrawal from Vietnam would embolden the then Soviet Union and even undermine its domestic policy agenda. From Lebanon to Iraq to the former Yugoslavia and Syria, the credibility argument has been applied in an attempt to ensure that America always sins on the side of war.
President Barack Obama’s decision to renounce the war after the Syrian regime crossed its ill-conceived “red line” is said to have resulted ina whole series of unfavorable developments in the world: from the annexation of Crimea by Russia to the regional confidence of Iran. “Refraining from reacting once the red line was crossed impacted American credibility not only in the Middle East, but I think it was watched in Moscow and Tehran, Beijing and Pyongyang and elsewhere. “,Obama Defense Secretary Robert Gates said. Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel agreed, stating the decision “undermine the credibility of the president’s speech. “
President Donald Trump found himself in a similar situation when he announced that the United States would leave Syria and, therefore, not protect the Syrian Kurds from Turkish attacks. The United States had partnered with the Kurds to fight the Islamic State terrorist group, but beyond that it had no formal defense agreement with them. However, the United States has an obligation to defend Turkey, a member of NATO. Yet Washington was ruthless. Then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Brett McGurk, Trump’s special envoy in the fight against ISIS, have resigned following the president’s decision.
“The Russians are listening to this. The Iranians are listening to this. This Assad regime is listening to this”,McGurk complained, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “The value of an American handshake really depreciates when you make decisions like this.” Former Secretary of Defense LÃ©on Panetta said, “Every part of this decision has weakened the United States. More importantly, it has undermined our credibility in the world.” Many progressive leaders, including Senator Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Agreed. “We are the laughing stock”, he added. âWe are the butt of jokes. No one is going to want to partner with us now.
The academic literature on military credibility does not support Washington’s predictable panic. From the book by the Associate Professor of Dartmouth College, Daryl Press, “Calculating Credibility: How Leaders Evaluate Military Threats“, political leaders tend to overestimate the importance of military credibility. Credibility tends to be context specific. How much we should believe the US if it promises to defend Taiwan depends primarily on Taiwan’s value to US national security and not how the US left Afghanistan.
In the words of the Harvard University professor Joshua Kertzer“The withdrawal of the Biden administration from Afghanistan will affect these calculations the next time the United States engages in an extremely expensive undertaking in a location which is not vital to the fundamental security interests of the country, but this is unlikely to sabotage the credibility of the United States at large. “
Where credibility matters most is in diplomacy, but Washington rarely shows the same level of concern when American leaders downgrade the value of American speech. As the quintessential American diplomat, William Burns,Explain in the Atlantic, the credibility of diplomacy is vital as “America’s ability to mobilize other countries around common concerns becomes more crucial” in a world where the United States can no longer navigate its way. through diktats. He asks, “If our elected representatives don’t give a negotiated deal a fair hearing, support it, or at a minimum avoid undermining it before the ink even dries, why is a friend or foe? would he engage in negotiations in good faith? with the United States? “
When Mattis was asked during his confirmation hearing in 2017 whether the United States should stay in the Iran nuclear deal, he said that “when America gives its word, we must live up to it. âEven though he contradicted the president he would soon serve, his response did not raise eyebrows because the standard was for the United States to honor their signature.
After four years of Trump’s presidency, expectations about U.S. diplomatic reliability have dropped.
But after four years of Trump’s presidency, expectations about America’s diplomatic reliability have dropped and the norm appears to have been reversed. When Tehran demanded assurances that the United States would honor its signature on the nuclear deal beyond its presidency, Biden dismissed it as an impossibility.
In a democracy,State Secretary Antony Blinken said, there is no way to tie the hands of a future president. In essence, he argued that America is inherently untrustworthy because it is a democracy and, contrary to what Mattis has asserted, the United States does not have to live up to its word. One would expect an authoritarian to make such an accusation against a democracy, not a democracy to freely admit it.
Blinken’s declaration is not only the worst argument put forward in favor of democracy, but itcontradicts liberal theories on the superiority of democratic governance in international relations. Democracies are seen as more stable and pursue a more coherent foreign policy, while abrupt changes of leadership in autocracies also result in massive policy shifts. In addition, because of the many internal constraints that leaders face, making promises they do not intend to keep is more costly politically and therefore less common, conclude international relations scholars. It makes democracies more credible.
Four years of Trump seem to have changed all that. The Biden administration’s assertion that U.S. agreements can only last for the duration of the administration signing them is to admit that Trump was not an aberration but the new normal and that future, this is how America will behave.
Perhaps Blinken should be given credit for his honesty. Yet it is utterly arrogant to expect the rest of the world to simply resign themselves to the idea that the most powerful nation in the world is perhaps the least reliable. On top of that, we expect the rest of the world – not ourselves – to foot the bill for our new philosophy of dishonor.
But we are the ones who will pay the price. American lack of confidence – courtesy intense polarization at residence – not only undermines the credibility of the United States, but also reduces the influence of the United States in the negotiations by diminishing the value of American promises. Iran’s nuclear talks are in part stalled because Tehran fears that Biden’s sanctions relief will bring no economic benefit in practice, as the United States could exit the deal again in 2025. Thus, America’s main influence loses its negotiating value due to legitimate doubts about its ability to keep its word.
Lack of reliability puts a country’s influence and influence at risk. How we allowed this to become our new normal baffles the mind.