Washington’s ‘Credibility’ Gap

by | Feb 21, 2024

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I know one good writer for the American Greatness publication – Julie Kelly who writes on the injustice of the January 6th persecutions – but even though I get their regular updates in my email box I never open them up. It seems like more or less just another of the “conservative” outlets that churn out highly political and politicized fodder – with plenty of “outrage stories” –  not very well thought-out on pages heavily laden with annoying ads.

Again, I could be wrong.

But one recent headline from my in-box caught my attention so I opened it up: “Lack of Credibility Places U.S. Deterrence Under Great Strain.” In the piece – predictably – the authors open with the statement, “American national security and the security of many of our allies depend upon the ability of the U.S. to deter aggression.” The presumption already in the piece is laid out: the US is the “indispensable nation” that must expend unlimited resources anywhere and everywhere to maintain total dominance for its own sake and for the sake of its allies.

Failure to dominate everywhere will lead to failure to survive anywhere. 

The other assumption in the piece is that the massive US monetary outlay in and of itself will be sufficient to dissuade any country (or group) anywhere on earth from taking any course of action in opposition to Washington’s will – even if said country or group believes course of action in question is critical to its own national security needs or interests. With enough weapons, tough talk, and eagerness to use both, any nation or group will give up on its own goals and interests and defer to those of Washington. Will bow to Washington’s will.

The piece argues that due to Biden’s seeming mental incapacity, the US can no longer effectively “deter” its foes and that is why Washington has failed or is failing in Afghanistan, Ukraine, and Israel. Again, according to this view, Chinese Premier Xi sees this weakness in America’s resolve and is ready to pounce. “In a peaceful world, [lack of deterrence due to Biden’s incapacity] would be disheartening to the American people and of considerable concern to allies. In today’s dangerous world with a hyper-aggressive Xi Jinping, this is alarming and must be addressed.”

While we actually agree with the authors about the current US lack of credibility on the international stage, they have the whole thing backward. The credibility gap does not come from not taking on enough interventions overseas and pouring unlimited resources into them. On the contrary. The lack of US credibility overseas is precisely due to the still extant neocon approach – shared by these authors – that the US can and should do anything and everything to shape and control nearly all events overseas. 

The problem, they argue, is not that the US is taking on too many globocop obligations, but that it is not taking on enough.

Neocon foreign policy failures are never the fault of the neocons. They are always the fault of “the others” who fail to plow sufficient resources into their schemes. If the scheme fails, it’s only because Washington didn’t use enough force.

The question is how much is enough? In Ukraine the US and its NATO allies have thrown hundreds of billions of dollars and literally every weapon in the collective Western arsenal against Russia and as we saw over the weekend with the fall of Avdeevka, all to no avail. Russian leaders have explained that they view resisting NATO designs on Ukraine to be a core existential issue and thus they refuse to be deterred. Thus Russia has called the neocon bluff on Ukraine and has shown the world that it is but a bluff.

Even the Houthis in Yemen – underestimated by the DC think-tankers as a rag-tag militia – have persevered through endless threats and a couple of dozen rounds of US/UK airstrikes. Far from cowering in the face of US military might they have just these past 24 hours reportedly struck three tankers in the Red Sea – hitting two US cargo vessels and sinking the UK ship “Rubymar” – and shot down a $20 million US Reaper UAV. They view responding to Israel’s massacre in Gaza by shutting down the Red Sea to Israeli-related shipping (and, with the US and UK jumping in on Israel’s side, US and UK shipping) to be a core issue that is not negotiable. They refused to be deterred by two US strike carrier groups in the region and in fact the Houthis achieved the heretofore unimaginable by forcing a US Destroyer to turn tail and depart the Red Sea. The Houthis called the Washington neocon bluff and exposed it to be just that.

The imploding credibility of US deterrence has nothing to do with Biden’s brain. Rather, it is the logical conclusion for a country whose elites believed they could wield unlimited force to bring the entire world to heel and in the end finally faced an “emperor has no clothes” moment.

The danger now that this credibility crisis has become obvious to all is that the neocons will again show up as arsonists at the fire they set themselves. We have reached the limits of US force, we are now reaping what the neocon interventionists have sown for the past three decades. And it isn’t going to be pretty.


  • Daniel McAdams

    Executive Director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity and co-Producer/co-Host, Ron Paul Liberty Report. Daniel served as the foreign affairs, civil liberties, and defense/intel policy advisor to U.S. Congressman Ron Paul, MD (R-Texas) from 2001 until Dr. Paul’s retirement at the end of 2012. From 1993-1999 he worked as a journalist based in Budapest, Hungary, and traveled through the former communist bloc as a human rights monitor and election observer.

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