Barack Obama, the once US President, member of the Democratic Party, and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, fought four wars.
Republican Donald Trump who succeeded him preferred not to increase the number of war zones and conflicts involving the United States Armed Forces.
It is thus not surprising that some members of the international community began to attentively monitor USA’s foreign policies once Joe Biden became the head of US administration. What steps will he take in relation to armed conflicts that the United States is embroiled in? What regions could the new US President start wars in?
Such concerns stem from the fact that Joe Biden had previously supported military interventions, and in matters of foreign policy, he is probably more of a “hawk”, i.e. a politician who tends to escalate conflicts, than a dove.
For instance, back in the day, he voted for the resolution authorizing military air operations and missile strikes against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In addition, the United States supplied Bosnian majority Muslim fighters with weapons. Thousands of civilians, including 400 children, died as a result of NATO-led bombing.
As Senator, Joe Biden also supported the 2001 US military operation in Afghanistan, arguing that Washington was obliged to attack the Afghanis “whatever the cost”. According to some estimates, the number of people who died during the war in Afghanistan may be as high as 360,000, including 26,000 children.
Since 1998, Joe Biden talked about use of force in Iraq and removing Saddam Hussein from power. In 2003, he was an ardent supporter of the Operation Iraqi Freedom, which resulted in over 200,000 civilians dead, of which about 40% were children. Because uranium containing weapons were used by the United States in Iraq, it has been suggested that there could be a link between cancer incidence (a 17-fold growth compared to 1991!) among the population in Iraq and their use.
In 2011, the then Vice President, Joe Biden followed Obama administration’s policies, including the intervention in Libya. NATO air strikes killed hundreds of civilians, and the Libyan civil war that followed resulted in many more deaths.
After winning the presidential election, Joe Biden “declared his presidency would not be a third Obama term” but a number of reports since then have challenged his assertion. Barack Obama played a crucial role during Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. One could even say that the former’s popularity helped the latter win the presidency.
As regards the US military budget, which was determined back under Barack Obama at a total of $1.3 trillion, Joe Biden promised during his election campaign that he would not dramatically decrease spending on national defense. He also did not hide his satisfaction with the amounts spent on the Barack Obama era nuclear modernization programs. The current President would probably also like to ensure that US armed forces are well-equipped with the latest weapons, equipment and ammunition.
During Barack Obama’s presidency, Joe Biden said he was an advocate for arms control and nonproliferation of nuclear weapons. In fact, he stated that reducing the threat of a nuclear attack was a priority for the administration. Then Vice President expressed his belief that the United States needed to “keep pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons”.
Now that Joe Biden has been in his new role as President for approximately six months, there has been an increasing number of signs indicating that his administration intends to return to Barack Obama era policies if possible. Still, it is unquestionably difficult to do so to a full extent because times have changed and so has the geopolitical situation.
According to an article published by The Spectator, “Joe Biden ordered his first big missile sally, a retaliatory strike in Syria” in early March 2021, during which the US “air forces dropped seven 500-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) at a crossing used by Iranian-backed militia groups, reportedly killing 17”. At the time, some lawmakers expressed concern about the move as the new President ordered the military operation without congressional authorization.
On June 28, 2021, President Joe Biden directed military forces to conduct defensive precision airstrikes against facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups in the Iraq-Syria border region”, as reported by CNN.
According to an article in the Türkiye newspaper, Joe Biden instructed the US military command to soon step up military activities in Syria and get rid of Iranian presence in the region to appease Israel. Syrian field commanders during in an interview with the publication confirmed the news and gave further details of the American plan. In particular, the United States was in the process of recruiting 30,000 local fighters in order to conduct a large scale operation in Eastern parts of Syria, between the city of Al Bukamal, near the border with Iraq, and Al-Tanf (one of three official border crossings between Iraq and Syria). The military campaign is expected to last at least 8 months and will begin at the same time within the 250-km region between Al Bukamal and Al-Tanf. The publication also claims that US officials have asked their Turkish counterparts for permission to use two of their military bases for training and equipping the mercenaries. Supposedly, these fighters are to be paid $300 while their leaders – $600 to 1,000 depending on their rank.
Joe Biden wrote “a letter to Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Patrick Leahy” regarding the air strikes in Syria, which was published on the White House website on June 29, 2021. In it, he stated that the United States stood “ready to take further action, as necessary and appropriate, to address further threats or attacks”.
Aside from military operations in the Middle East, the US President has all but declared the start of two cold wars against Russia and the PRC.
The author believes that increasing domestic polarization over a number of years could lead to a major public rift in the United States. In fact, during the 2020 election, “317 retired generals and admirals signed an Open Letter” warning that America was in deep peril and was fighting for survival. At the beginning of May, 2021, over 120 retired US generals and admirals published another open letter, which said that “without fair and honest elections” the Constitutional Republic was lost, and some former military leaders may not be on the side of the current Democratic President. A major rift could thus be brewing within the nation.
And so could external military conflicts, as the US leadership does not know any other ways of dealing with its domestic issues, of which there are as many as during the Civil War, without inciting conflicts in other countries.
Hence, the possibility of escalations in tensions abroad is growing, for instance, between the United States and the PRC in the Taiwan Strait as well as the South China Sea; or in the Korean Peninsula. It is also possible that the US leadership will try to involve other Western nations in its confrontation against Russia and its allies. Still, it is unlikely that such moves will benefit the current US administration. After all, not all Americans would choose to send their children to fight in yet another war. In addition, the current balance of military power has been shifting. China’s and Russia’s growing military clout and stockpiles of cutting edge weapons are indicative of the fact that the United States may not emerge victorious in a confrontation against them.
In the author’s opinion, the Biden administration could consider waging a brief war that the US is capable of winning as an option in order to unite the divided nation and raise levels of patriotism among the populace. It would be even better if fighters from, for instance, Syria, South America or other parts of the world, were to take part in such a conflict instead of US servicemen.
Vladimir Odintsov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.