Most presidents’ approach to foreign policy is labeled their “doctrine.” President Biden’s Thursday speech at the State Department was the preview of a “Biden Doctrine,” which the president painted as an admixture of virtue signaling, liberal talking points, and signals of weakness.
Biden began by repeating some of the themes of his inaugural address, saying that we will repair our alliances and engage the world again, feeding the narrative that Trump had damaged alliances such as NATO and hadn’t engaged the world. Stumbling over his words at several points, Biden said we will meet the accelerating global challenges of the pandemic, climate change, and nuclear proliferation.
He announced that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin would conduct a new “global posture review” to ensure that our “global footprint” is appropriately aligned with our foreign policy and national security priorities. Biden also announced that he stopped the Trump-planned troop withdrawals from Germany.
The effect of those announcements, and Biden’s approach to NATO, is the return to business as usual for our deadbeat allies of NATO. Those who don’t invest in their own defense — the vast majority of them, especially France and Germany — will no longer be under any pressure to do so. They will happily cease that investment, leaving us to absorb the burden of defending their nations and ineffective militaries.
Biden, like Obama, led with his chin on that and other international issues. The coup in Myanmar and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempted poisoning and later imprisonment of his principal opponent, Alexei Navalny, are perfect examples. They must be among his top priorities because they were among the few topics about which Biden spoke.
Biden said, “The Burmese [sic] military should relinquish power they have seized, release the advocates and activists and officials they have detained, lift the restrictions on telecommunications, and refrain from violence.”
Start out with the fact that we have zero national security interests in Myanmar (the name by which Burma is now called) and precious little trade with it. So why, unless we’re about to pretend to be the world’s policeman again, should the president deign to speak about it? He shouldn’t.
The Myanmaran military should do as he said, but they won’t because America has no influence over their nation. They are not going to do what Biden said they should do just because he said so.
None of our principal allies Biden named — he called Canada, Mexico, the UK, Germany, France, NATO, Japan, South Korea, and Australia our “closest friends” — are going to even try to force that outcome. If he is so dedicated to multilateral action, why didn’t Biden convince them to do so before he invested his credibility in it?
It is not strange that Biden didn’t name our closest ally in the Middle East — Israel — one of our “closest friends” because he, like Obama, has a deeply embedded personal dislike for Israel and its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. I will write much more about that in the coming months.
Biden spoke of his conversation with Putin, claiming that the days of rolling over on Russian aggression are over. Not mentioning the attempted poisoning of Navalny by Putin’s agents, Biden said that Navalny should be released from prison in Russia immediately and without condition. There is no chance whatsoever that Putin will do that.
Putin’s attempt to poison Navalny, followed by imprisoning his opponent, has resulted in massive protests in Russia and greatly weakened Putin. Biden seems oblivious to the opportunity that presents. If Biden were serious about helping Russians become free of Putin’s government by siloviki (his allies from among the veterans of the KGB and other agencies of oppression and espionage), he should have encouraged the protesters and said that Putin should step down. But he didn’t.
Biden wants to be tough on China and Russia without offending them.
Biden bragged about re-signing the Paris Accord on climate change and the renewal of the “New START” arms control treaty with Russia. What he failed to mention was that both actions were taken without any concomitant gain to the U.S. received in the bargain.
Biden could have demanded that China close down its coal-fired electricity generating plants as the price of our rejoining the Paris Accord, but he didn’t. India and China are among the top three carbon-emitters, and neither has any intention to reduce its emissions.
Biden could have demanded that renewing the New START agreement depended on the inclusion of Russia’s new hypersonic strategic weapons among those limited by the treaty, but he didn’t. The treaty was renewed on Putin’s terms, not what should have been done in America’s national security interests.
Those actions were the first demonstrations of what the “Biden Doctrine” will be: compromising American interests without gaining anything in return. As I have written before in The American Spectator, these were exercises in gift-giving that amount to appeasement.
Biden also said we were ceasing any cooperation with the Saudis in fighting against the Houthi rebels in Yemen who have attacked Saudi military and civilian targets. (He later reversed Trump’s order designating the Houthis as a terrorist organization.) He added that he was directing USAID to ensure that the Houthis receive humanitarian aid because they were suffering “unendurable devastation,” presumably at the hands of the Saudis.
Biden is undermining one of Trump’s greatest achievements — the Abraham Accords under which the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and other Arab nations made peace with Israel — by ending our aid to the Saudis in that fight and cancelling arms sales to the Saudis and the UAE, the latter agreed to as a price of the Abraham Accords. The end of our assistance to the Saudis is a clear signal to them that they shouldn’t follow the examples of the UAE and Bahrain in making peace with Israel.
The president said, “I’ve asked my Middle East team to ensure our support for the United Nations–led initiative to impose a ceasefire, open humanitarian channels, and restore long-dormant peace talks.” Ever the multilateralist, Biden wants the UN to make the key decisions on Middle East policy so that he doesn’t have to. The reference to the “long-dormant peace talks” means he will engage, with the UN, to pressure Israel to begin peace talks with the Palestinians, who were proved irrelevant to peace by the Abraham Accords.
Biden said that he was signing a presidential memo to ensure that all government agencies deal with LGBTQ issues to “reinvigorate” our leadership on them and “do it internationally.” He added, “You know, we’ll ensure diplomacy and foreign assistance are working to promote the rights of those individuals, included by combatting criminalization and protecting LGBTQ refugees and asylum-seekers.”
LGBTQ rights are, apparently, his greatest concern on human rights.
Biden also said he was multiplying our admission of refugees nearly a thousand-fold from Trump’s limitation in the next fiscal year. That means about 125,000 will be admitted from all sorts of countries.
Biden bragged about rejoining the World Health Organization, which is part of the UN, and added, “finally, to successfully reassert our diplomacy and keep Americans safe, prosperous, and free, we must restore the health and morale of our foreign policy institutions.”
America’s foreign policy institutions are the State and Defense Departments, and you can bet your bottom dollar that the Defense Department wasn’t included in that statement except to the degree he burdens it with nonsensical climate change policies like Obama did.
Biden’s first attempt to outline his developing “doctrine” was worse than misguided. He clearly intends to subordinate U.S. policy to international organizations such as the UN and NATO. His diplomacy will not pursue America’s foreign policy and national security interests when they conflict with those of allies and adversaries.
To paraphrase what then–British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston said in 1848, a nation has no permanent allies or permanent enemies, only permanent interests which it must pursue. That is something Biden clearly doesn’t understand or believe. And America will suffer greatly for it.