The wisdom of peace through strength has been proven many times over. The folly of weakness is equally axiomatic and, sadly, it is once again on display. That multiple theaters of conflict have reached critical stages all at once is President Biden’s fate. Some of the peril, though, is his fault. As an aging president trips over his tired tongue, adversaries sense America is falling.
Mr. Biden has inherited a diplomatic enigma that bedeviled his predecessors in the form of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons. The U.S. has vowed often to never allow the mullahs to acquire “the bomb,” and it is now the president’s conundrum to win their agreement. “When that will come, I’m not certain,” said Mr. Biden in Israel last month. “But we’re not going to wait forever.”
Iran’s leaders can’t help but notice that the president’s tolerance has its limits. After all, he bailed on Afghanistan a year ago, allowing an insurgent Taliban to declare victory over the American superpower. They might be tempted to surmise that he has neither the patience to match their expertise in endless haggling nor the guts to walk away from the bargaining table. Already, the world is acclimating to a nuclear-armed Iran, with an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-linked website posting a video, according to the Jerusalem Post, claiming the regime’s ballistic missiles are capable of “turning New York into hellish ruins.”
Elsewhere, Russia spent years licking its lips at the prospect of devouring its Eastern European neighbors. Mr. Biden foolishly suggested in January that “a minor incursion” into Ukraine not turn the world upside down. Presto, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a major invasion. The world will never know whether wiser wording would have warded off the subsequent onslaught.
Watching the unfolding violence, China’s President Xi Jinping has reacted as though Mr. Biden’s Ukraine pronouncement was translated into Chinese as a reprise of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s infamous “peace for our time” blooper. History recalls his reckless proclamation as the opportunity Hitler seized when he invaded Poland to trigger World War II.
And then Mr. Biden stepped in diplomatic muck with his other foot. Contradicting longstanding U.S. policy of “strategic ambiguity,” he recently answered in the affirmative when asked whether the U.S. would aid Taiwan in repelling an attack from the mainland. Further inflamed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s provocative visit to Taipei, Mr. Xi’s freshly armed military has responded with invasion drills that include a naval blockade and missiles overflying the island.
Fate has placed Mr. Biden in the middle of a multifront maelstrom comparable to the 20th century’s Cold War. It is not his fault, but he is assuredly liable for the verbal blunders that have sent dangerous adversaries to sharpen their swords.
Competent leaders don’t need to be reminded of the venerable axiom, “If you want peace, prepare for war.” Nor do they require admonishment to tame their tired tongues. But President Biden does.