War

How to Stop America's 'Endless Wars'

The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft is promoting a more restrained foreign policy from inside the Beltway. But will the Biden administration listen?

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President-elect Joe Biden is promising a return to normalcy in U.S. foreign policy following the turbulent Trump years, calling for "America to restore dignified leadership at home and respected leadership on the world stage."

Be careful what you wish for.

Biden backed the wars in Iraq and Syria and drone-bombing campaigns in countries like Pakistan, which were carried out under the "counterterrorism plus" strategy that he supported as vice president. In the 1990s, he co-sponsored a bill with John McCain to send troops into Yugoslavia. He advocated a troop surge in Afghanistan, though he later came to oppose it.

He embodies the establishment view that the U.S. must take the lead in policing the world because, as the Biden campaign's foreign policy adviser Antony J. Blinken put it, "the world simply does not organize itself." A Biden presidency might entail a return to the Obama-era policies of aerial warfare, a heavy reliance on drone strikes, and maybe even a willingness to enter multinational military conflicts without seeking congressional approval, such as the Libya intervention that toppled Moammar Gadhafi and later launched a bloody civil war.

There's a saying in Washington: "Personnel is policy." New administrations often draw from think tanks for both. The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, formed in December of 2019 with seed funding from the foundations of both progressive billionaire George Soros and libertarian billionaire Charles Koch, is attempting to promote a more restrained foreign policy from inside the Beltway.

During his 2016 candidacy, Trump broke with the foreign policy establishment. As president, he spoke of ending America's "endless wars," and he installed a senior Pentagon adviser in the dwindling months of his presidency to accelerate a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan—although thousands of troops will likely remain.

But Trump's more establishment personnel fought to constrain his noninterventionist impulses. There were high-profile resignations, and one outgoing diplomat even admitted to lying about troop numbers in northern Syria after Trump had ordered a withdrawal.

Biden is reportedly eyeing former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice for secretary of state. For defense secretary, Biden is rumored to be considering Michelle Flournoy, an Obama administration alumna who co-founded the influential Center for a New American Security, which emphasizes the need for more military preparedness against China and Russia and a smaller but ongoing U.S. presence in the Middle East.

"In terms of a Biden foreign policy, we know who Joe Biden is. He's very much…ascribed to a kind of liberal interventionism, this notion that the U.S. needs to take a big role on the international stage for the good of the world," says Annelle Sheline, a foreign policy analyst at the Quincy Institute.

The think tank, which seeks to cultivate a roster of foreign policy experts who can guide future administrations toward military restraint, is named for the former U.S. President John Quincy Adams, who once said that America "goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy."

"[Adams] says America can become the dictatress of the world, but in doing so, she will lose her own spirit and her own freedom," says Trita Parsi, the Quincy Institute's executive vice president. "I think we have seen that as we have gone abroad and [fought] more and more wars, the security state at home has also become stronger and stronger. And many of the liberties that the American people have traditionally seen as traditionally [uncompromisable] have been compromised." 

The Quincy Institute's policy fellows argue that the U.S. should abandon the strategy of global military domination and accept the reality of multipolarity, or competing regional influences.

"The longer that the United States continues to…behave in ways that were more possible when it truly was the world's only superpower, [the more we] are just going to continue to sort of fritter away American resources," says Sheline. 

One of the institute's core tenets is that American foreign policy "should derive…directly from U.S. interests, rigorously defined."

"The United States needs to focus on protecting the territory of the United States itself," says Sheline. "One of the major bad assumptions driving U.S. foreign policy is the notion that the [military] presence in the Middle East makes the United States more safe. And this is fundamentally untrue."

Biden told CBS's Face the Nation in February that as president he would keep some troops in Afghanistan indefinitely.

But Sheline says America doesn't need troops on the ground in the Middle East at all because a naval presence is sufficient to safeguard America's main strategic interests, which are keeping trade and travel routes open and preventing the rise of a regional hegemon that could threaten U.S. national security. She says there's no player in the region likely to assume that role.

China has learned from U.S. military misadventures and seems unlikely to get involved militarily in the Middle East, Sheline says, while Iran is too weak to become the dominant force, and Russia operates through a series of self-serving, temporary partnerships.

"The U.S. would do well to take a page out of Russia's book and to say, 'Saudi Arabia, you're not acting in a way that is supporting our interests. Maybe we will go talk to Iran,'" says Sheline.

One aspect of Biden's foreign policy stance that the Quincy Institute agrees with is the president-elect's pledge to re-enter the Iran deal that Trump walked away from.

"The nuclear deal was actually very good because it prevented a war with Iran and prevented the Iranians from being able to have a pathway to a nuclear bomb," says Parsi. 

Once Trump pulled out, Iran began enriching uranium at ten times the rate allowed under the deal, according to Parsi.

Sheline says although Saudi Arabia and Israel have a stake in the U.S. continuing to treat Iran as an enemy, it doesn't pose a significant threat to America.

"Iran is quite weak," says Sheline, who points out that the country's GDP is smaller than that of New Jersey. "This ongoing sort of animosity between the U.S. and Iran just doesn't really make a whole lot of sense."

As U.S. troops leave the Middle East, Parsi suggests that America should encourage countries to form a regional security organization, but that it's crucial for the U.S. not to take a leading role.

"This is the instinct [in Washington D.C.], that whatever we do, [the U.S. has] to be in the lead on it," says Parsi. "[U.S. leadership] will take agency away from the regional countries. And ultimately it's the regional countries that will benefit from the security orientation. Their incentives to move in this direction should be stronger than ours." 

While the Quincy Institute is unlikely to be the go-to foreign policy think tank of a Biden administration with its deep ties to the foreign policy establishment, Parsi says more politicians and bureaucrats will eventually come around to their vision for a more restrained foreign policy, quite possibly out of necessity, and that when it happens the Quincy Institute will have personnel at the ready to make the pivot away from military interventionism a reality.

"What we are calling for inevitably will happen because we are bleeding ourselves to death with these endless wars," says Parsi. "We want the shift to be a proactive shift that is done before we have weakened ourselves too much."

Produced by Zach Weissmueller.

Photo credits: Everett Collection/Newscom; Abaca Press/Pool/Abaca/Sipa USA/Newscom; Everett Collection/Newscom; Abaca Press/SalamPix/Abaca/Sipa USA/Newscom; Nancy Siesel/ZUMA Press/Newscom; State Department/Sipa USA/Newscom; Abaca Press/SalamPix/Abaca/Sipa USA/Newscom; Dani Salvà / VWPics/Newscom; Pete Souza/ZUMA Press/Newscom

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  1. The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft is promoting a more restrained foreign policy from inside the Beltway.

    If only we could elect a president that simply lacked interest in intervening militarily in every corner of the globe.

    1. Gee. I wonder where we could FIND such a president?

      You know, like one who focussed on lower unemployment, lower medical costs, fewer government regulations, criminal justice reform, economic expansion, better trade deals, energy independence… one who took the handcuffs off our military and let them demolish terrorist outfits like ISIS, one who was ready to tell Iran, “If you’re not happy with the Taliban YOU fix it!” I wish we had a president who recognized that sending billions of dollars to the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism was not a good idea – one who recognized that taking out the high-ranking officers responsible for world-wide terrorist attacks was a great idea.

      Where would we FIND such a president???

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    3. Koch is libertarian??

    4. Trumps team is threatening to expose the establishment of corrupt politics, that enables the entire corrupt establishment.

      Wars are how the corrupt keep our eyes off the ball.

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    5. “The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, formed in December of 2019 with seed funding from the foundations of both progressive billionaire George Soros and libertarian billionaire Charles Koch, is attempting to promote a more restrained foreign policy from inside the Beltway.”

      By restrained they mean don’t change. They never advocate downsizing the empire or ending the fake war on terror.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aI1ksLBOpXY

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    7. Pardon Ed Snowden and Julian Assange.

    8. BUT THE MEAN TWEETS!!! THEY ARE MORE IMPORTANT TO STOP THAN WARS!!!

  2. giving a 78 year-old warmonger the keys is not the answer dummies

  3. How? Don’t elect democrats. Biden is a hawk. His senate record speaks for itself.

    We will probably be in some ME war within 2 years.

  4. But will the Biden administration listen?

    No.

  5. “How to Stop America’s Endless Wars”

    By not electing Biden. Reason dipshits. SMH

    1. Mean tweets are worse than any war!

    2. We can stop America’s Endless Wars by electing Anti-War Candidates of the Democratic, Republican or Third Parties. Biden is a hawk, like Obama who ran as an Anti-War Candidate but became a hawk. There are Anti-War Republicans like, Former Member of Congress, Ron Paul, Anti-War Democrats like, Dennis Kucinich, Andrew Yang, Marianne Williamson & Tulsi Gabbard. Most Third Party Candidates are Anti-War.

  6. Ctrl F “elect Biden”
    No results.

  7. This d bag will have us in a new conflict before we know it?! And for what? Maybe time for the French and English to handle mideast issues since those tards drew the borders incorrectly in the first place.

  8. Endless war is here to stay. Trump’s presidency was as close as it gets to reeling it in. Hopefully our country, which let it’s ass get kicked by the flu, doesn’t bite off more than it can chew with a serious adversary.

    1. And wasn’t close enough by a long stretch.

      He owns hiring that piece of shit Bolton, and likewise replacing him with Raytheon’s own Mark Esper.

      Stupid fuck blew his chance.

      1. He was talked into hiring Bolton, didn’t listen to Bolton and then canned his ass.
        Bolton then wrote a whiny book about it and became a temporary establishment liberal darling.

        Tell the whole story.

        1. Bolton wrote a great book about Canadian politics.

          Tell the whole story.

  9. Could have supported a president for negotiating a full withdrawal from Afghanistan.

    Why pretend otherwise?

    1. Like another gaggle of beltway insiders was ever going to do anything in support or recognition of such a vulgar outsider interloper. That sort of behavior just might remind the people that, in a government of elected representatives. It is their interests that are the ones that are supposed to matter.The

      Don’t want to do anything to encourage that. Bad for business.

      Might as well rename themselves the CFR part Deux.

  10. End the military industrial complex and it’s lobbyist, and the wars will end. Until then they will not, people are making a lot of profit from those wars and young people dying.

  11. First I hope that President Elect Biden will reach out to Iran sooner than later. I would start by asking John Kerry to renew contacts with Iran and start working out a new deal.
    Second I would like to see Congress take back some authority for military conflicts. Republicans will surely object to Susan Rice as Sec. of State, but what if Biden cut a deal to accept an end to the Use of Military Force. The President really should go back Congress when he needs to use military force.
    Third we need Israel and Saudi Arabia to understand that having their back is one thing, backing them up when they pick an unneeded battle is another.

    1. The main reason Saudi Arabia got in a proxy war with Yemen was due to the Obama administration promoting the Arab Spring there, so I’m not sure how you think his VP is going to solve that.

    2. Step
      <ol

      • Continue Iran policy as is. “Don’t bug us, and we won’t bomb you out of existence.”
      • Tell John Kerry to kill himself. Help him do it if he seems incapable.
      • Congress has the Constitutional authority to DECLARE WAR. If they won’t, don’t send anyone to fight.
      • How many peace prize nominations did Trump get for Middle East breakthroughs? How many peace deals were brokered? Yeah. Do that.
      1. You are forgetting that in the run up to the Iraq war Congress gave President Bush the authority to use force. Congress needs to rescind the authorization.

        1. Also remember that the Iraq War was a fully bi-partisan deal. Check out the House and Senate roll calls for the votes on the Iraq War. Pretty much every prominent Democrat voted in favor of the actions, including Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Harry Reid, and Joe Biden.

          In the House, 82 (39.2%) of 209 Democratic Representatives voted for the resolution.

          Indeed, in the Senate Democrats could have stymied the whole thing if they had not gone over to the other side on the vote. It passed 77-23, but 29 (58%) of 50 Democratic senators voted for the resolution. If Democrats had voted as a bloc against the war, it would not have passed (i.e., resolution fails 48-52).

          Senate Democrats voting for the resolution were:

          Sens. Baucus (D-MT), Bayh (D-IN), Biden (D-DE), Breaux (D-LA), Cantwell (D-WA), Carnahan (D-MO), Carper (D-DE), Cleland (D-GA), Clinton (D-NY), Daschle (D-SD), Dodd (D-CT), Dorgan (D-ND), Edwards (D-NC), Feinstein (D-CA), Harkin (D-IA), Hollings (D-SC), Johnson (D-SD), Kerry (D-MA), Kohl (D-WI), Landrieu (D-LA), Lieberman (D-CT), Lincoln (D-AR), Miller (D-GA), Nelson (D-FL), Nelson (D-NE), Reid (D-NV), Rockefeller (D-WV), Schumer (D-NY), and Torricelli (D-NJ).

      2. Point two can’t be overemphasized.

    3. John Kerry is an effing idiot, and you must really lust for more wars if you want him involved.

      1. Has nothing to do with peace. It’s all about the graft and ensuring that the correct nests get feathered.

    4. First I hope that President Elect Biden will reach out to Iran sooner than later. I would start by asking John Kerry to renew contacts with Iran and start working out a new deal.

      Why? To reward bad behavior? How about we instead continue to work to isolate and weaken Iran by getting more countries to recognize and create political ties with Israel? Every time we get one more country to do that, Iran gets a little weaker.

      You reward good behavior and penalize bad behavior. Giving someone a reward for bad behavior only creates more bad behavior. This has held true for centuries all the way back to “once you have paid him the Danegeld/ You never get rid of the Dane”

  12. The worst thing about the Democrats and Never-Trumpers in recent years is that, to parlay a phony petty partisan peccadillo, they blew our chance to get the Russians on our side for years to come.

    1. WHAT?!? And abandon our totes relevant, not possibly outdated Cold War agenda?

      Never!

    2. Yeah, but the Russians aren’t totally onboard was intersectionality, transgender tots and handing everything over to the Davos crew, so your average NYT liberal is actually pretty hostile to them.

  13. Or the people could grow a set and ostracize everyone who does not adhere to or believe in the NAP.

    1. So your solution is to take a nap?
      Hmm.
      Could work.
      Better than ANYTHING biden has proposed.

  14. Thank god some Americans can see the waste created by USA’s current foreign policies.

    Many in the west cannot understand China’s international success. China goes about the world building trading links, investing in businesses, building roads and schools. The USA builds military bases and then threatens any who dont give them favourable terms.

    Who would you prefer to deal with?

    1. Seems you don’t understand the point of the belt and road policy.

    2. This is one of the problems with democracy. An authoritarian regime like that in China sees the value in foreign aid and uses it to build influence. In a democracy like the USA we are reluctant to spend money for foreign aid. It is far easier to get the American people behind military spending in a foreign country, than it is for us to build a road in that country.

      1. Just give every Beltway piece of shit who votes for wars or authorizes the use of force an M-16 and send them over.

        Wars would end yesterday.

        1. And simply shoot Lindsey Graham just because…war-monger garbage that he is.

  15. So your solution is to take a nap?
    Hmm.
    Could work.
    Better than ANYTHING biden has proposed.

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  17. R.I.P. U.S.A. we screwed the pooch in this last election.

    1. Is Trump v. Biden really national sovereignty versus global reset?

      1. Is Canada an actual country?

        1. Some say it is.

          1. Winter is closing upon us.

            Perhaps you up north ought to clean up your own yard before you talk about mine.

            Your libertarians look worse than ours. At least we got on the ballot in all states.

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  19. How, reelect Trump. Biden has been on the wrong side of every US action for 40 some years.
    However if elected his term will be shorter than William Harrison’s of 31 days.
    Then the Progressive claws will really come out. Result, the Dims will suffer a bloodbath in the mid-terms.

    1. “Re-elect Trump.”

      You had your chance and you blew it.

  20. If only there was a President who wanted to bring troops home and didn’t start a single war.

    1. If only any debate moderator thought foreign policy was more important than climate change as a debate topic.

    2. If only there were a president who brought the troops home, regardless of what he wanted. Gentlemen, I give you Joe Biden.

      1. We have one who tried and had the bureaucracy lie to him to not bring them home.

        The consent of the governed needs to be revoked.

        1. I don’t think he tried very hard.

          1. Firing Mattis for refusing to do it and then having other bureaucrats brag about how they kept shifting the numbers and lying to him.

            Yeah, it was Trump’s fault.

    3. Didn’t start a single war.

      And didn’t eat babies in pizza parlors.

      You know we are stuck now with Biden. Or do you you deny that. Doesn’t matter you a foreign alien eh?

  21. Reason lights the gaslight flame.

  22. Every Left-Libertarian meaning Leftist coward who voted for Joe and his Ho deserve a boot to the head …. a steel toed boot to the head.

  23. “turbulent Trump years”

    Yeah, all those years of not wars breaking out and peace agreements between longstanding enemies sure were turbulent.

  24. The current President is trying to end them and all Reason can do is complain about him. Stop pretending it’s a priority for Reason when it obviously is not.

  25. Fuck you you stupid reason Buttfuckers. You love Al Qaeda and Iran and China. You fuckers hate America. John Quincy Adams was a fag, very famous for blowing men in the bathhouse. My foundation, the Penis foundation, encourages real statecraft around the world, by protecting Americans.

  26. What if a country, China, for example, were to infect America with a virus causing a pandemic which tanks the economy and sets the befuddled population against each other? Wouldn’t America lose its stomach for endless foreign adventures?

  27. As long as we don’t have a draft and can print money with to pay for wars with no negative effect economic impact…this will go on. Woke liberal art majors playing “war” are the most dangerous folks in the America. Liberals are showing themselves for what they are…global tyrants who want to impose their will on America and the World. The congresswomen who stated we need to make sure the Taliban don’t take away women’s right to vote and make them second class citizens is a classic example of the problem. This will never end…we will be invading countries to protect gay rights soon…or for diversity, inclusion and equity…..

    1. ” This will never end…we will be invading countries to protect gay rights soon…or for diversity, inclusion and equity…..”

      Fox news is pulling your leg. America is in Afghanistan for two reasons: heroin and China.

  28. Trumps group is threatening to show the establishment of corrupt politics, that permits the entire corrupt establishment.

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