Will Biden Have Obama Syndrome or Act Like Trump?
Joe Biden has been talking a big game. When Joe was vice president, Obama did most of the foreign policy and the only input from Biden was minimal. His most memorable foreign policy moment was when he said to Obama, “Don’t do it” in reference to sending in the Navy Seals to take out Bin Laden. Joe Biden since becoming president said he would reverse the neglect of Trump “and, I would argue, abuse,” of American alliances in the recent past as quoted from the Wall Street Journal. Biden said that he was forceful in his call with Putin although all we can do is take his word on that. Vladimir Putin is at the strongest point in his presidency and so is Xi Jinping of China.
Biden’s team believes that their foreign policy is dependent on how other countries approve or disapprove of the United States. This is very different than Trump’s “America First” foreign policy. Biden is now at a tough time for any president where our country’s success rests on him rebuilding alliances in Europe and Asia. This is more dire now than ever because democracy movements in the developing world are failing. Everywhere we look, whether Venezuela, Russia, Uganda or Myanmar, dictators are taking power and brutally attacking their opposition.
Obama gave more speeches than any president on topics about democracy and human rights. However, during Obama’s presidency authoritarian powers grew even stronger. Obama laid down the red line in Syria and said in 2011, “The time has come for President Assad to step aside.” 10 years later and Bashar Assad is still in power. Assad is being propped up by Russia and Iran which makes it likely he will not be stepping down anytime soon. Biden needs to abandon empty gestures and moralistic words about standing up for our allies and be willing to use military force against our adversaries if necessary. Besides Syria, Obama messed up his play in Egypt where to this day a military strongman rules the country, beating and torturing political rivals. Obama and Biden also tolerated the capture of Crimea by Russia all the while China greatly increased its power in the South China Sea.
Biden’s biggest foreign policy moves so far are him calling on Russia to release Alexei Navalny from prison and ordering Myanmar’s military to roll back its coup. How will Biden convince Myanmar to return to democracy? Nobody knows. We need strong leaders now in the US to match up to the authoritarians like Putin, Xi Jinping, Nicholas Maduro and several more. Using Obama’s passive foreign policy playbook is good for avoiding war, but the war against dictators has already begun. Biden needs to get tough and go toe to toe with world leaders that are challenging the freedom of the US or our allies. Authoritarian leaders only respect strength and courage. Biden needs to keep this in mind while also doing his best to ensure we do not get involved in endless wars like Iraq and Afghanistan.
My advice to Biden is to learn from the strengths and weaknesses from both the Trump and Obama administrations. He can then craft his own foreign policy that is logical and morally right. Obama did a good job working with allies, and to this day he remains the all-time favorite president in Germany and the EU. Biden must also learn from Trump in not being afraid to stick up for the U.S. in a crisis. When Trump head-to-head with Kim Jong Un, the world feared nuclear war, but through a miracle this confrontation led to three peace talks.