A New Direction: A Foreign Policy Playbook on Military Restraint for the Biden Team

Summary of Study

Bottom line: U.S. foreign policy is broken and does not work in the best interests of ordinary Americans. The Biden Administration has the opportunity to fundamentally reorient American foreign policy in the direction of advancing U.S. interests rather than global domination. The Biden Administration should pursue a foreign policy of military restraint and responsible statecraft.

Foreign policy based on responsible statecraft consists of the following several principles: It serves the public interest, engages the world, promotes peace, avoids war, and is democratic. The U.S. should embrace these foreign policy principles in five global theaters: China and East Asia, Afghanistan, the Greater Middle East, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Following this approach will usher in a new, more effective foreign policy that protects Americans' safety and interests.

Recommendations for China & East Asia:

  • Expand climate change and public health cooperation with China.
  • Reduce military tensions in the Taiwan Strait and negotiate maritime agreements with China.
  • Pursue peace and phased denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.
  • Restructure U.S. alliances in Asia around a denial-oriented defense strategy.

Recommendations for Afghanistan:

  • Withdraw all remaining U.S. troops.
  • Adopt a global, partnership-driven counterterrorism strategy.
  • Support transitional justice and sustainable aid models.

Recommendations for the Greater Middle East:

  • Drawdown the U.S. military’s presence in the region.
  • Support an inclusive security architecture.
  • End the wars in Syria and Yemen, normalize relations with Iran.
  • Lead by example on human rights.

Recommendations for Saudi Arabia:

  • End the war on Yemen.
  • Draw Saudi Arabia into a regional security architecture.
  • Support the development of nuclear energy for desalination.
  • End or limit weapons sales if Saudi Arabia undermines U.S. interests.

Recommendations for Iran:

  • Swiftly return to the JCPOA.
  • After “maximum pressure,” offer humanitarian assistance.
  • Pursue an end to U.S.–Iran enmity.
  • Address regional concerns through a new security architecture. 

Read the full policy playbook HERE