Turtle Bay, New York is where the leaders of the world flock to attend the United Nations’ annual gabfest. Leaders from all walks of life get to address the world. President Joe Biden will be among them. His theme will reportedly be “democracies vs. autocracies.” Prepare to be underwhelmed.
First, words and actions are the best form of strategic leadership. Take Winston Churchill’s famous declaration, “we will fight them on the beaches.” This speech would be long forgotten, if the prime minister had not actually resolutely committed to fighting and winning the Battle of Britain.
Indeed, friends, allies, and enemies pay more attention to what our leaders “do” than what they “say.” Biden starts with a bit of a credibility deficit. The withdrawal from Afghanistan proved disastrous. The world is scratching its head at an open border. Biden looked confused by the Taiwan crisis. He failed to deter Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and despite the massive American aid, Biden doesn’t seem to have real plan for a way forward.
This, however, is not the worst of Biden’s foreign policy. Beyond the shear ineptness and incompetence of his team lurks a deeper shortfall—a serious penchant to put politics ahead of good policy.
There used to be axion that politics ends at the water’s edge. The Biden administration has flipped that principle of statecraft upside down. During the Cold War there was an effort to make bipartisan foreign policy. This coalition included political leaders from the Left and the right. However, the American political leadership changed significantly in the 1990s. Political diversity in both parties was so diminished that it became increasingly difficult to reach a consensus on foreign policy with leaders from both sides of the aisle.
Biden has taken this division to the extreme. Instead of politics being at the waters edge of political power, our president views foreign policy as an extension of his domestic agenda. Look at the top priorities of the White House. They are not China Russia Iran North Korea, Iran, or Russia. They are climate change and a woke culture agenda that mirrors leftist radical social policies here at home.
Climate change is an example. Biden’s climate policies are not an economic plan. They are not an energy or environmental plan. They are not a national security strategy. They are a political agenda that aims to promote radical transformation in America and secure progressive control over the country. His domestic agenda is only supported by global climate policy.
All this ought to raise all sorts of red flags for Biden’s UN speeches where he plans to take on the world’s bad boys. Domestically, Biden has only used the threat to democracy theme to pursue his political opponents. Anybody who disagrees with Biden’s policies are considered a threat to democracy. Biden’s detractors are often described as racists and fascists. They hate women. They hate men who are women. They are outraged by outrages like men competing in women’s sports, radical thugs rioting in American cities, and indifference to the life of the unborn. All these forms of “violence” are anti-Biden and thus, anti-democracy.
It is reasonable to expect that Biden will reflect this division in his approach towards foreign policy.
There is already ample evidence that the president’s administration has less than zero credibility when it comes to making distinctions between good and evil abroad. His approach to bad actors is to engage them, sometimes offering a bit more scolding and finger-waves. Despite all evidence that the Iranian regime is as evil and as corrupt as it appears, he still wants an Iran Deal. He even attempted to hire hunter killer squads to kill former U.S. officials. He is not hard on China. He was little more than a speed bump for Putin before the war in Ukraine. He has coddled every leftist anti-American Latin American regime.
Furthermore, his leadership record has been less than stellar. His summit of democracies meant a lot. His summit of the Americas was a scandal. These were to be his most important achievements in democratic leadership.
Biden will deliver a speech at UN. His cronies will be elated. His allies will be polite. It will be ridiculed by his enemies. We will soon forget it all and face the fact that we have a White House that lacks both democracy and authoritarianism when it comes time to defend democracy.
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