In a recent Iowa speech former U.S. Vice President and Democrat presidential aspirant Joe Biden claimed President Donald Trump and his policies are an existential threat to Americans. It seems quite odd that he would say such a thing, especially since many security-conscious Americans consider the Obama/Biden administration’s eight-year foreign policy record a colossal failure, which threatened Americans and tens of millions of others.
In 2008, then Senator and Democrat presidential nominee Barack Obama chose Senator Biden to be his presidential running mate. Obama considered Biden, with his 36-year U.S. Senate tenure, a leading foreign policy authority as well as a seasoned legislator and Washington hand well-experienced in D.C. ways. Before leaving office, President Obama awarded Vice President Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his service to country and his administration.
When they took office in January 2009 many Americans believed the Obama/Biden administration would offer the country a welcome change in direction from the previous George W. Bush administration and the Afghanistan and Iraq wars which consumed it. Consequently, it raised expectations for a better and safer world, not only for Americans but everyone else. During their administration, Obama and Biden followed their global worldview impulses and displayed a willingness to make greater use of the United Nations and other international institutions in resolving the world’s most difficult problems. The centerpiece of their foreign policy and national security strategy was “strategic patience,” a concept built around not immediately reacting to global crises, and instead, looking to the international community to resolve them.
How well did the Obama/Biden approach work? The 2016 U.S. Intelligence Community’s Worldwide Threat Assessment provides a glimpse of what the world looked like after eight years of pursuing Obama/Biden administration policies. It isn’t a pretty picture. For example, the Obama/Biden administration’s U.S. Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, briefed Congress on the security threats identified by 17 U.S. intelligence agencies. Mr. Clapper, among other things,reported:
Violent extremists were operationally active in about 40 countries. Seven countries experienced a collapse of central government authority, 14 others faced regime threatening or violent instability or both. And another 59 countries faced a significant risk of instability.
There were more Sunni violent extremist groups, members, and safe havens than at any time in history. The rate of foreign fighters traveling to the conflict zones in Syria and Iraq in the past few years was without precedent. At least 38,200 foreign fighters — including at least 6,900 from Western countries — traveled to Syria from at least 120 countries since 2012.
The Iranian Shiite regime continued to be the foremost state sponsor of terrorism and exerted its influence in regional crises in the Mid-East through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Quds Force. And its terrorist partner Lebanese Hezbollah remained a continuing terrorist threat to U.S. interests and partners worldwide.
North Korea carried out its fourth nuclear test; China continued to modernize its nuclear missile force and is striving for a secure, second-strike capability; Russia continued to have the largest and most capable, foreign nuclear-armed ballistic missile force, and developed an intermediate range cruise missile that violated the INF Treaty; and Iran likely viewed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as a means to remove sanctions and preserve nuclear capabilities.
A record level of migrants, more than one million arrived in Europe, and was predicted to grow in number. Migration and displacement strained countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Overall, there were some 60 million people displaced globally.
And other non-government and government organizations confirmed the U.S. intelligence community’s bleak assessment.
Freedom House’s 2016 report stated that “Global freedom (e.g., democracy and human rights) declined for the 10th consecutive year as economic pressures and fear of unrest led authoritarians to crack down on dissent, while migration and terrorism fueled xenophobia in democracies.”
The 2016 Institute for Economics and Peace’s Global Peace Index showed a decade-long decline in peace with terrorism at an all-time high, battle deaths from conflict at a 25-year high, and the number of refugees and displaced people at a level not seen in 60 years. [PDF] Global Peace Index 2016 – Institute for Economics and Peace
The 2016 U.S. State Department’s annual report on terrorism listed59 foreign terrorist organizations (about 75 percent of them having gestated and operating in Muslim-majority countries) that threaten U.S. citizens and interests — a growth of 34 percent since its 2009 report.
More recently, former Vice President Biden chastised President Trump for attempting to treat communist China — the world’s most populated country, with one of the world’s largest militaries, a large nuclear capability, and with a history of cyber-thievery against American businesses and citizens) as an unfair competitor to the United States. In doing so, he greatly understated the national security threat China poses to the United States even though China engaged in hostile acts against the U.S. during the Obama/Biden administration.
In 2013, a Virginia-based cybersecurity firm, Mandiant, in a report titled, “Exposing One of China’s Cyber Espionage Units,” reportedly traced 141 major hacking attempts to China’s People’s Liberation Army spanning 20 major industries since 2006 — 115 of them against U.S. targets. China’s top U.S. targets were aerospace, energy, information technology, satellites and telecommunications, public administration, and consulting information. The stolen information used to wage economic, military, and political sabotage and warfare against the United States.
In 2015, the U.S. government disclosed that Chinese hackers breached U.S. Office of Personnel Management computer system and accessed the personnel and security records of some 22 million Americans — likely for nefarious purposes.
In sum, the Obama/Biden approach to handling world affairs and U.S. security during the eight years of their administration did not succeed — with global terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and human suffering rising and global freedom retreating. Additionally, communist China increased its activities against the United States, and according to the CIA World Factbook, emerged as the world’s largest economy.
It’s rather remarkable that Biden, who was the architect and champion of many of these failed foreign policies, would deign to label the incumbent U.S. President as an existential security threat when so many foreign policy calamities happened on his watch.
President Trump won a free and fair presidential election by offering American voters a stark change in direction from the Obama/Biden globalist policies and the established D.C. national security and crony capitalist order. He promised to avoid unnecessary future wars, curb illegal immigration, have recalcitrant international allies pay their fair share for common defense, redo trade deals that harm American businesses and consumers, and serve as Free World leader in protecting American interests and people. It is how a constitutional republic should operate. And if President Trump poses an existential threat to anyone or anything it’s to the Obama/Biden way of doing things, not to U.S. national security.
Fred Gedrich is a foreign policy and national security analyst. He served in the U.S. departments of State and Defense.