After 100 days in the Oval Office, President Joe Biden’s foreign policy has not delivered much of a hit parade. Still, there are some solid gets, some gob-smacking missteps, and a few pretty big challenges where the call could go one way or the other. Whether a Biden foreign policy can keep America free, safe, and prosperous in a global neighborhood that is getting tougher by the day remains an open issue.
Strategic leadership is rhetoric and action — what presidents say and what they do. Our competitors and our friends really care way more about what America actually does in the world. If we want to understand us like they do, then calling strikes and balls for Biden ought to focus on his deeds, not his promises and finger-wagging. The envelope, please:
Hit! Indo-Pacific policy. On all the key concerns of the day in China’s backyard, the Biden team has been remarkably solid.
They continue Freedom of Navigation operations in the South China Sea, challenging Beijing’s assertion that it’s a lake of the Chinese Communist Party.
The administration has been strong in its support for Taiwan and relentlessly critical of Beijing’s repression in Hong Kong and the continuing genocide against the Uyghurs and other religious and ethnic minorities.
They elevated the importance of the Quad, the strategic partnership between the U.S., India, Australia and Japan in maintaining the Indo-Pacific as a free and open space. When India was smacked with a brutal resurgence of COVID, in less than 48 hours, the administration mobilized a strong response rushing to the aid of a key strategic partner.
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A lot of folks credit Kurt Campbell, a steady realist Asia hand from the Obama administration, with keeping the Biden team on a steady course.
Whatever the source of common sense, one of the great strengths of the administration is its continuity of policy with the last team in the White House.
Miss! Our southern border. This is both a domestic and an international issue. An open border is a real risk to everyday Americans, but it is also significantly destabilizing to the region.
Biden has turned the border into a 2,000-mile toll-booth for the cartels, enriching and empowering gangs and transnational crime every day.
He is robbing Central America of its future, literally stealing the people who should be building up these countries, not fleeing.
He has made every excuse, insisting that it is not his fault — which it is. His policies look only to move more illegal aliens into the U.S. faster in larger numbers.
It’s hard to see how this ends well.
Hit! NATO. Biden reversed the decision to remove U.S. troops from Germany. That was seen as a welcome reaffirmation of continued American commitment to NATO.
Other policies from the past administration were actually pretty good at strengthening and transforming the alliance to be relevant for contemporary challenges.
So far there has been more continuity than change from the Biden team. That’s all to the good.
Miss! Climate Change. Biden rushed back into the Paris Accord like the not-cool kid who doesn’t want to miss the party. The reality is that managing climate and environmental issues are really a domestic issue.
The U.S. doesn’t need the accord.
What’s troubling is that Biden rejoined—not because it will deliver better environmental outcomes, but because it will strengthen his hand in using climate policy as an excuse to transform the American economy and blow up the size and influence of government.
For this team, the top priority is using climate policy to crush political opposition to their socialist agenda.
Maybe! Then there is a crucial list of issues where we just have to hold our breath, because Biden’s policies have not played out.
The administration’s desperate effort to jump back into the Iran Deal will both embarrass Biden and destabilize the region. In the end, it will depend on how big and how quickly Washington caves to Tehran’s demands.
The telegraphed pullout from Afghanistan will likely only accelerate troubles for the region. We’ll see.
Biden wants to stop rebuilding the military. That’s a bad idea.
Finally, it is not at all clear Biden has earned the respect — or fear — of either Beijing or Moscow.
The bottom line is, Biden still seems to be testing how much his administration can get away with just reverting to the old Obama way of managing the world. The more they try, though, the more problems they seem to be running into.
The more they recognize it’s time to move on with the policies of the last four years that actually worked, the better off they will be.