Geopolitics

Strategic Scarcity: Allocating Arms and Attention in Washington

The United States’ manifest and concrete interests of security, prosperity, and liberty are directly at stake, and its citizens deserve a serious strategy to safeguard these interests.

“Strategy,” wrote business guru Richard Rumelt, “involves focus and, therefore, choice. And choice means setting aside some goals in favor of others.” While the Indo-Pacific is rhetorically the United States’ primary theater, the Biden administration has been unique in the extent to which it pays lip service to the Indo-Pacific while allocating the lion’s share of its finite resources to Europe. This is critical because resources are much scarcer than this strategy implies. Strategists ought to reckon with the reality of scarce resources and the prioritization this scarcity impels. Washington must make hard choices now while there is still time.

The United States’ current strategy documents declare an overwhelming focus on the Indo-Pacific. The National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy both clearly prioritize China over Russia. Administration officials’ rhetorical assertions similarly imply a focus on China. Most notably, President Joe Biden himself has asserted on four occasions that America would defend Taiwan against Chinese aggression. Meantime, other officials are warning of the Chinese invasion threat to Taiwan with increasing urgency, characterizing it as “manifest,” “acute,” on a “much faster timeline” than thought, or that they are “fearing” invasion as early as 2023.

Despite these assertions of Indo-Pacific import, the administration’s actions fall demonstrably short of this prioritization. The extent of material support for Ukraine is producing serious opportunity costs, infringing on Washington’s ability to safeguard its cardinal interests, namely: maintaining the capability and capacity to deter or deny Chinese territorial aggression in Asia, the most likely target of which is Taiwan.

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