With the recent release of its Interim National Security Strategic Guidance report, the Biden administration has introduced its domestic and international priorities for the next four years in office. The document serves as a basic outline until the full National Security Strategy comes out at a later date, but from it, we can understand the goals the administration seeks to accomplish.
One of the most important aspects of the report, and something that President Biden has acknowledged in the past, is the emphasis on stabilizing and strengthening the domestic situation in the U.S. Internal strife hampers our ability to address major problems in the country, as well as the ability and legitimacy to lead on the international stage and in international institutions. In contrast to his predecessor, Biden has focused on the response to COVID-19, both in this report and in action. Since his taking office, the vaccination rate has increased and is now at over 2 million per week; the U.S. has just hit 100 million vaccinations given; and Biden has said that every adult in the country will be able to get vaccinated by May 1, moving the timeline up over a month.
The Biden administration’s domestic focus is a two-pronged approach to revitalizing American democracy. The first is emphasizing the defense of voting rights, which are under attack by Republicans in multiple states around the country after the loss of the election. The second is working towards racial justice, which stands as one of the greatest domestic issues being faced today. It is refreshing to see a focus on issues such as these after a complete abdication of leadership in the U.S. for the last four years. It is important to hold the administration accountable for coming through on their promises, including those in the INSSG and beyond.
Perhaps the greatest area for accountability is in the administration’s wielding of military power, a realm in which the executive has already caused some uproar after a drone strike against Iranian-backed fighters in Syria. The report declares that “we will make smart and disciplined choices regarding our national defense and the responsible use of our military,” but the use of drone strikes has caused thousands of civilian deaths under the last two administrations. Biden has issued a change in limits that requires higher-level approval for the use of a strike, but to continue to wage war in this way in countries where the U.S. is not officially at war, nor have an authorization for the use of military force is not a responsible use of the military.
The INSSG report is basic and filled with much of the same rhetoric and goals of past administrations, but it also brings a focus on key issues to which responses have been lackluster and downright embarrassing in the past. Ensuring responsibility and accountability from this administration is paramount going forward.