National Security Challenges for the Biden Administration | January 25, 2021
Professor David Schanzer led a discussion with former U.S. Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence Sue Gordon and Professor Bruce Jentleson about the national security challenges ahead for the Biden administration.
Event summary by Daniel Billings:
Professor Bruce Jentleson and visiting Professor Susan Gordon, former U.S. Deputy Director of National Intelligence, addressed AGS for its first meeting of the spring semester. They spoke about the changing national security concerns that the new Biden administration will face, from an expansionist China to the COVID-19 pandemic. Reflecting on the recent January 6th storming of the Capitol Building, both speakers re-iterated that this event further damaged America’s standing as a defender of democracy around the globe, as the domestic terrorist threat gave more legitimacy to the enemies America’s stated values abroad.
Reflecting on the Trump administration’s record, both panelists highlighted that the geopolitical landscape has drastically changed since 2008 and when President Obama was in office. As a result, President Biden does not have the option to simply revert back to a former national security strategy. As the conversation veered towards combatting China’s rise, Professor Bruce Jentleson said that the Biden administration would be wise to avoid a new Cold War 2.0, urging that many of Americas biggest foreign policy failures began by overestimating external threats. Pandemics and climate change, he argued, are far greater challenges than those posed by China. Susan Gordon agreed, though urged that the administration must improve its efforts to stop Chinese actors from stealing intellectual property.
The conversation ended with discussion on how America is wrestling with its relative decline on the international stage, and what that means for the Biden administration. After 1945, the US sat on top of the world diplomatically, technologically, economically and militarily. Now, the speakers agreed, the world is equally shaping Americans, and many people want to lash out at the world. The notion of America as a single leader is part of history, and how other countries act on the world stage will not always be comfortable for American policy-makers. The Biden administration will need to act accordingly to secure the best outcomes for American national security and foreign policy.