Joe Biden faces many challenges in the evolution of foreign policy


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One of my favorite quotes is from former Secretary of State James Baker, who wryly observed that “foreign policy is like your plumbing; you don’t think about it until something goes wrong and that’s all you think about! This truism is again evident with missiles flying between Gaza and Israel, causing untold suffering on both sides. And the week before, millions of Americans once again waited in gas lines as a ransomware hacker – likely operating from Russia (and obviously with all the Kremlin’s knowledge, if not approval) – shut down the Colonial pipeline, of crucial importance.

It wasn’t meant to be like that – Biden’s systematic, multilateral, nondramatic approach was going to be a complete departure from the transactional, chaotic, and “America First” treatment of international relations by the Trump administration. Biden even assembled his highly experienced and ready-to-step management team on day one – they were waiting behind the scenes at various Washington “think tanks” and consultants – and Senate confirmations arrived at lightning speed (especially compared to to the Trump nominees.) The menu of the president’s foreign policy priorities was also drawn, with sharp deviations from most of Trump’s policies, with one major exception: the president had the common sense to accept the portrayal of his predecessor in the Chinese Communist Party as a long-term threat to Americans. interests and puts its policy in a similar direction – but without the megaphone.

The three most abrupt departures concerned climate change, the Iran nuclear deal and Afghanistan. Biden joined the Paris Climate Agreement weeks after its inauguration in a complete reversal of the previous administration’s position – where even the use of the term “climate change” in official statements was risky. Climate Czar John Kerry wasted no time entering the seventh floor of the State Department – just down the hall from Secretary Blinken, dispatching the Africa Bureau, literally and figuratively, to shallower depths. Likewise, the administration has moved quickly to try to reach the 2015 Iran nuclear deal – which both sides appear to support. However, it seems unlikely that this will happen before the June elections in Iran. And a new complicating factor is – how comfortable is the international community with Iran making billions more from the easing of sanctions, which it could then use to provide thousands. additional rockets and other sophisticated weapons to terrorist groups like Hamas?

But the most significant policy reversal has been Biden’s stated intention to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021 – the 20th anniversary of al Qaeda’s attack on the Americas. There have been many well-reasoned articles on this decision by foreign policy experts, both pro and con. Unfortunately, I fear how this will end – within three years the Taliban will regain control of Kabul and revert to the horrors of its medieval rule.

One area the president seemed to want to avoid getting tangled up in – at least early in his tenure – was the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum, which has been the quicksand of foreign policy of every administration since Truman’s. While moving quickly toward “rebalancing” towards the Palestinians (picking up some assistance and allowing the Palestinian office in Washington to reopen), Biden appeared to support Trump’s “Abraham Accords” (not using the name) that opened. relations between Israel and the Arab states. But with the outbreak of the fighting in Gaza and the barrage of rockets by Hamas against Israel, the president has no choice but to inject the United States again into this intractable conflict in an attempt to end the current violence. . Even if he succeeds, the only certainty here is that any time Biden leaves office, the overall picture will have changed little – and there will be no “two-state solution.”

Other uncertainties are also lurking. What about North Korea – will Kim Yong Un test our president through new missile launches? Or, if evidence emerges that Russia supported the colonial pipeline hack as a test of how easily vital America’s infrastructure can be crippled, how will the president react? Secretary Baker was right, foreign policy can become consumerist.

But another Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, also said, “There cannot be a crisis next week; my schedule is already full! Pious wish.

Ambassador Tibor Nagy was most recently Assistant Secretary of State for Africa after serving as Texas Tech’s vice-provost for international affairs and a 30-year career as a US diplomat.

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