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Joe Biden last week announced the core nominees for his foreign policy team. Most media outlets, hostile to President Trump’s foreign policy initiatives, breathlessly hailed the group almost as saviors of the Republic. Slate: “foreign policy experts.” CNBC said they will, “restore America globally…” NPR called them, “historic picks…” Vox said that, “they will hit the ground running.”
In picking this team, Joe Biden stated his desire is for “fresh thinking” on foreign policy. Unstated is that he, too, rejects President Trump’s foreign policy. Yet, will he receive new thinking from a group of people who have worked together in the Obama administration, and are described by the New York Times as “liberal interventionists”?
In large measure, Joe Biden’s picks are the very people who were in assistant secretary or deputy positions during the Obama and Clinton administrations, who have moved a rung or two up the ladder. Do they really have new ideas, or will they push for the same “lead from behind” strategies we saw during the Obama-Biden years?
This “Back to the Future” foreign policy team is comprised of the very people who advocated and supported US appeasement of Iran that resulted in the disastrous Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. This was supposed to delay Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, yet all indications are that Iran has continued research and the processing on nuclear material. Iran’s chief nuclear scientist was assassinated because of it. They also did nothing to support Iranian protestors – reformers who were protesting the theocratic regime’s human rights abuses – during the Arab Spring.
They are the same people who advocated US engagement in Libya, which resulted in the assassination of our Ambassador to Libya, as well as the deaths of US contractors. Result: Countless Libyans have died in a civil war that has gone on for nearly a decade.
Also in the Middle East, they pulled our troops out of Iraq in 2011, only to see the “JV team” of ISIS fill the void and grow into the most potent radical Islamic terror movement yet known, while also turning their backs on Israel and our allies among the Gulf monarchies. Extrajudicial drone strikes on civilian targets throughout the region is another hallmark of the Obama-Biden administration.
They failed at an “Asia Pivot” that did nothing but allow China to grow its military and industrial might through intellectual property theft. They did nothing to prevent China’s exploitation of other countries through the debt trap scheme known as the Belt and Road Initiative. They also ignored Chinese and Russian information warfare during the 2016 election cycle.
Joe Biden says that climate change will be a centerpiece of his foreign and domestic policy, and he has appointed former Secretary of State John Kerry as his special envoy for climate change to re-engage on the Paris Climate Agreement. I find it difficult to take advice on cutting my poisonous carbon footprint from someone who owns multiple homes, cars, boats, and private jets. Any bets on the over/under of Secretary Kerry’s foreign trips to international climate conferences?
This string of mishaps is among the many reasons that the American electorate turned to Donald Trump in 2016. It is no secret that President Trump’s “America First” agenda broke many of the foreign policy establishment’s accepted orthodoxies, especially when it came to military engagement and trade policy. His tone rattled allies. He was regularly viewed as an outsider in international meetings. He distrusted the multilateral institutions that were built following World War II.
The Biden foreign policy team will reverse most aspects of President Trump’s agenda for the traditional bi-partisan foreign policy consensus that was roundly rejected by voters in 2016. I subscribe to Senator Marco Rubio’s remark about the Biden team: That they will be, “polite and orderly caretakers of America’s decline.”
Michael Krull is President & CEO of CRA, Inc., and an adjunct professor teaching politics and public policy at Georgetown University. He also participates as a lecturer for the Georgetown Global Education Institute, which brings senior government leaders from the Pacific Rim to the United States for short-term study tours.