There is an interesting, somewhat provocative, even hopeful article by and Should former Vice-President Joe Biden win the White House in November, America will likely be in for a foreign policy about-face as Biden reverses, dismantles or severely curtails many of President Donald Trump’s most significant and boldest actions … [because] … From the Middle East to Asia, Latin America to Africa and, particularly, Europe, and on issues including trade, terrorism, arms control and immigration, the presumptive Democratic nominee and his advisers have vowed to unleash a tsunami of change in how the U.S. handles itself in the international arena.“
First, let me restate my position, please:
- I believe that Vice President Biden is a poor choice. I think his overall record is spotty, at best and I have some worries about both his moral fibre and his mental acuity; but
- I believe that President Trump is a marginally worse choice. I know his moral fibre is suspect and I know his mental capacity is sub-standard and I know he is a lying, cheating, bullying buffoon, you know that, too, readers and friends, even if some of you wish it was not so; and
- I wish that the Republican Party would stage a political revolt and draft a morally acceptable and intellectually capable candidate to run in 2020 …
… but that is not going to happen and, despite his abysmal performance in 2020, I still believe that President Trump has an even chance of being re-elected. That will be bad for America and the world.
But let’s assume the status-quo; within the current range of choices, Biden or Trump, we find that “With few exceptions,” Messers Lee and Historically, U.S. foreign policy hasn’t changed drastically as the presidency shifted between Democratic and Republican administrations. Allies and adversaries stayed the same and a non-partisan diplomatic corps pursued American interests.“Americans could expect Biden to re-engage with traditional allies. Where the iconoclastic Trump has used blunt threats and insults to press his case, Biden, a former senator, would be more inclined to seek common ground … [and, they add] …
The authors have their little list of likely Biden foreign policy initiatives. I have mine. My guess is that a Biden global re-engagement would start with:
- Australia, Britain and Canada ~ they are America’s strongest traditional (20th century) allies and they are most like America in the social, political and economic domains. America should bring them back onside so that their support for the USA’s strategic goals is almost automatic. Then it would proceed to
- India ~ because I do not foresee a major shift in Sino-American relations. As that authors point out, “Biden has been slower to directly criticize Trump’s recent actions against China,” than he was in other areas. That’s because most Americans agree with Donald Trump that China is the biggest (only) threat to America’s position as Number 1 in the world. India, for the next generation or longer, will be a rising power than will do as much, perhaps even more than America can, to contain China in Asia. India will, eventually, challenge China and, by extension, America, but India’s strategic aims will be different. China wants America off the Asian mainland so that it can be THE only regional hegemon. India, I think, will want to play something more akin to Britain’s 19th century “balance of power” role;
- Europe ~ both through NATO and the European Union. I suspect that Bidens’ foreign policy advisors worry that Putin’s Russia is a greater, near term, threat to peace and security than is Xi Jinping’s China. Xi is the greater threat to America’s dominance but he is unlikely to want to risk armed conflict over any of his lofty ambitions. Putin, on the other hand, is always the adventurous opportunist who will risk conflicts if he thinks he can win. American policy towards Europe should be two-tracked. Security and prosperity should be its hallmarks:
- First, a Biden administration should stop Trump’s plans to withdraw US troops from Europe. I suspect that Vice President Biden’s foreign policy advisors understand that Russia, not China, is the main threat to peace and security in Europe and its periphery. I think that they think that Xi Jinping’s China is unwilling to risk armed conflict over almost any (Taiwan excepted) of its grandiose plans while Putin, always the adventurous opportunist, is willing to risk a small war if he thinks he can achieve his aims with minimal damage. A Biden administration should promise to strengthen America’s military presence in and around Europe IF the Europeans ~ and the Canadians ~ do more to help defend the West. President Trump is right on burden-sharing and Vice President Biden knows it, and
- Second, a Biden administration should negotiate simultaneous and complimentary free(er) trade deals with Britain, the European Union and important no-EU nations like Norway and Switzerland. The aim should be to strengthen the overall economic dominance of the US-led West. That is best done by having free(er) and fair trade deals with Europe (and with Australia, Canada, Idia and Japan too). President Trump believes, with every fibre of his being, that “win-win” trade deals are impossible. That’s arrant nonsense, but he believes it … so do tens of millions of Americans. While I have a lot of sympathy for Robert Lighthizer’s aim to redress the industrial workers’ “dignity deficit,” trade wars are the wrong way to go about it. Trade wars with friends and allies are worse than wrong, they are destructive to America’s strategic aims;
In dealing with Europe a Biden administration should, in so far as it can, ignore Macron’s France and Merkel’s Germany. It must recognize that the EU is hopelessly divided on too many issues and it should pick its interlocutors with great care ~ Dutch Prime Minister Rutte is my first choice.
- The Middle East and South-West Asia remain terribly difficult areas. Not much has changed in four and a half years since I offered a strategic survey of the region, except that Canadian-Saudi relations are in the tank. But the Middle East, and its oil, matter a lot to Aerica and to the world and it is a potential flashpoint for a nuclear exchange. America’s vital strategic interests start with preventing that limited nuclear war or, at the very least, containing it. Iran and Isreal are key actors, as are Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. I’m sorry, but I have no useful advice for anyone;
- Asia is the current “hot-spot” because President Trump has made it so. China is not America’s friend, but it ought not to be an enemy, either. America has many friends in the region: Australia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand, for example, and it can and must strengthen ties with (above all) India and with e.g. Cambodia, Fiji, Indonesia, Laos and Vietnam. Once again trade and security are the most valuable tools America has; and
- All the rest ~ including always troubled Latin America, which can loom large in US domestic politics, the Caribbean and Africa. America’s vital interests are global and so is its reach. It can act, unilaterally if needed, but preferably with allies, including Canada, everywhere.
America and the world needs a new grand strategy to replace Trumps’ America First idiocy. Of course, America should always put America First, in everything … remember Lord Palmerston, arguably the author of the world’s most successful foreign policies:
America had a highly successful grand strategy in the 20th century. IF he is elected president, Joe Biden can look back to men he knew well who implemented good strategic policies and who
made kept America great. They always put America First, but they always understood that America’s vital interests were achieved when America was First because it was liked and admired by its friends and respected by the world.
A newly elected Democratic Party president would do well to reach across the aisle and seek bipartisan input to and support for a renewed suite of foreign, defence and trade policies. (S)he would do well, also, to seek out willing moderate Republicans ti fill a few vital policy posts ~ either in the cabinet or in the White House. America has always been at its best when politics stopped at the water’s edge. Great American president like Harry Truman and statesmen like Arthur Vandenberg understood that. So must Joe Biden and Nikki Haley and hundreds of other political heavyweights … because America cannot be Great Again until they do.