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The Treaty

Joe Biden’s Mental Fitness Is a National Security Threat

Joe Biden in the Oval Office (1)
President Joe Biden signs the “Recruit and Retain Act” aimed to improve grants for police hiring purposes, Friday, May 24, 2024, in the Oval Office. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

Joe Biden Is Making America Less Safe: Many political debates come down to one line. President Gerald Ford’s declaration that “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford administration” may have handed the presidency to Georgia governor Jimmy Carter. In 1980, Ronald Reagan closed his debate with Jimmy Carter by asking, “Are you better off than you were four years ago,” a simple question that juxtaposed the metaphorical forest with Carter’s penchant for explaining the trees. Seeking re-election four years later, Reagan hobbled his challenger, former vice president Walter Mondale with his famous “I will not exploit for political purposes by opponent’s youth and inexperience” quip. In 1988, Governor Michael Dukakis hemorrhaged support when he appeared more technocratic than emotional when asked whether he would seek the death penalty should someone rape and murder his wife.

A single line will not define the June 27, 2024 debate between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, but rather the sheer spectacle of a president who appeared confused and unable to articulate even the simplest points. Democratic operatives might panic as they scramble to replace the incumbent and presumptive nominee. Biden, meanwhile, appears so far unwilling to drop his election bid.

Pundits navel-gaze, but the real storm might not be political. The ramifications of the exposure of Biden’s incompetence is profound. America’s adversaries are sophisticated. They readily factor America’s political calendar into their decision-making. Adversaries might hedge to formalize agreements before U.S. elections if they believe they could get a better deal from a new administration. Conversely, they might rush diplomacy if they fear the alternative to whomever is in the White House.

Enemies also know the United States is most distracted prior to an election, or in the weeks after as a new administration prepares to take office. Adversaries have agency. They often time attacks to maximum advantage. Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi bombed Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in the short period between Vice President George H.W. Bush’s 1988 election and his 1989 inauguration. By the time investigators found Libyan fingerprints on the attack, Reagan was already out of office. The length of investigation undercut momentum for retaliation.

Likewise, Russian President Vladimir Putin could have invaded Georgia at any time, but he timed his assault to coincide with the U.S. election campaign between Senators Barack Obama and John McCain. George W. Bush was a lame duck, and the difficult legacy of the Iraq war undercut partisan will to trust Bush in his last weeks. Obama and McCain sparred over reaction with dueling press statements, but neither had the power to act. By the time Obama triumphed on election days, Russia’s land grab was already a fait accompli.

In September 2020, it was Azerbaijan’s turn as it invaded the self-governing Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh as Trump and Biden battled it out on the campaign trail. President Ilham Aliyev timed his invasion literally to get away with murder.

Joe Biden

Photo by Adam Schultz / Biden for President

The stakes this year are higher and go beyond the president being a lame duck. American enemies believe Biden to be weak and enfeebled. Presidents and prime ministers who have seen Biden as both president and vice president have told me that he is not the same man.  After the debate fiasco, Chinese media mock Biden as “habitually confused.”

Danger is looming. China has made no secret of its desire to take Taiwan by force, and Russia openly covets not only Ukraine but also Moldova and the Baltic states. Iran may now also accelerate its efforts to overwhelm Israel directly or by proxy. The list of possibilities is longer. President Nicolas Maduro is deeply unpopular in Venezuela, but an invasion of oil-rich Guyana could rally nationalists around his floundering regime. Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s is in a similar position, and may calculate now is the best time to wipe out the Kurds in northern Syria regardless of U.S. forces partnering with them to keep the Islamic State at bay. Kim Jong-un in North Korea is volatile on the best of days, but the belief in U.S. paralysis may be too tempting to pass up.

The Joe Biden Problem Is Bigger Than We Realize

Biden’s fumbles may have started a clock toward war across the globe, with adversaries and enemies having more than four months to exploit Biden apparent mental incapacity.  It is one thing to debate replacing Biden as nominee, but that may no longer be enough to keep peace. International security might now depend on the 25th Amendment governing presidential disability and succession.  Vice President Kamala Harris may not exude competence, but she is in charge of her own faculties, a low-bar but a necessary one nonetheless.

About the Author: Dr. Michael Rubin

Michael Rubin is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and director of policy analysis at the Middle East Forum. He is also a contributing editor for the Middle East and Africa at the National Security Journal.

Michael Rubin
Written By

Michael Rubin is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he specializes in Iran, Turkey, and the broader Middle East. A former Pentagon official, Dr. Rubin has lived in post-revolution Iran, Yemen, and both pre- and postwar Iraq. He also spent time with the Taliban before 9/11. For more than a decade, he taught classes at sea about the Horn of Africa and Middle East conflicts, culture, and terrorism, to deployed US Navy and Marine units. Dr. Rubin is the author, coauthor, and coeditor of several books exploring diplomacy, Iranian history, Arab culture, Kurdish studies, and Shi’ite politics, including “Seven Pillars: What Really Causes Instability in the Middle East?” (AEI Press, 2019); “Kurdistan Rising” (AEI Press, 2016); “Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes” (Encounter Books, 2014); and “Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos” (Palgrave, 2005). Dr. Rubin has a PhD and an MA in history from Yale University, where he also obtained a BS in biology.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Mr. Myxpyx

    June 30, 2024 at 5:43 am

    There is no difference between the Biden we saw this week and the Biden who campaigned from his basement. The difference is in your perception. The same people whom we did not elect into office (Obama et al) are still in charge, so no need to be concerned about national security. Everything is fine. Take a deep breath. Let’s let this play out. Pour yourself a glass of wine. Drink up…drink up the very dregs. All of you Democrats who voted for the man you saw this week need to reap what you have sown.

  2. Pingback: Democrats in trouble as Joe Biden stands as grand hurdle - BLiTZ

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