Democrats are never actually hawkish on national defense, but they like to speak as if they are. Because that has backfired in the past, President Joe Biden’s administration is not about to make that same mistake.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday that the Biden administration would never use the term “red line,” Breitbart reported. Psaki made those remarks about details of the new COVID-19 relief bill, but the implications may go deeper.
“Red line is an old term,” Psaki told a Fox Business reporter asking about salary considerations with new stimulus check distribution. “We’re not going to use it again.”
Perhaps the reason Psaki was loath to use the term this time was because she’d already been burned by it before. President Barack Obama drew a “red line” against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in August 2012, threatening retaliation if the country’s president used biological or chemical weapons against his own people.
Then in June 2013, Assad used sarin nerve gas against his citizens. Obama demurred from his previous threat and instead deferred to Congress for permission to retaliate. He was met with bipartisan opposition, likely because he’d already demonstrated weakness and lack of follow-through that would have made starting another war a disaster.
As a spokesperson for the State Department at the time, journalists hammered Psaki about Obama’s failure to honor his commitment. “I’m not talking about red lines,” Psaki said in an Aug. 2013 briefing. “I’m not having a debate or conversation about red lines, I’m not setting red lines. Let’s not talk about red today.”
Although Psaki’s recent instance was about domestic policy, it isn’t a leap to assume the administration will not be drawing any “red lines” in foreign policy anytime soon either. Democrats are often skittish about war and, when they do authorize force, it’s usually part of a piecemeal foreign policy that lacks cohesion, clarity, or many times even usefulness (as evidenced by Obama backing down from formal action in Syria while favoring drone strikes everywhere else).
The press secretary who prefers to “circle back” to everything is simply conveying the type of leadership her Democratic boss prefers. Sure, Biden is quite free with his pen, but Democrats are notorious for running roughshod over America and its laws while tiptoeing around dictators. Biden will likely be no different.