February 17, 2021
Author: Chilton Williamson
After one month at sea the Biden administration is handling the predictable heavy weather just about as any reasonable person might have expected it to do, given the course on which it set itself— the exact opposite of the one the Trump government plotted four years ago. Like Christopher Columbus, Trump aimed to discover new seas and new lands westward. Now his successor and his crew are sailing east on the ages-old sea route back to China, where all the old familiar pirates, sea-serpents, and hippogriffs persist and lie in wait for them.
Even as Joe Biden was bunkered in his basement last summer and fall, imagining himself out wooing–and wowing–the voters on the campaign trail somewhere in the wilder parts of America, critics, including sympathetic ones, were warning that his aim of putting the United States “back” into the international system ignored the fact that the world has changed dramatically since he and Barack Obama left the White House in 2017. In an excellent column in today’s Wall Street Journal (“Biden’s Rough Start With the World,” 16 February 2021), Walter Russell Mead describes just how dramatic the change really was, and what the implications for President Biden’s foreign policy are. Mead begins by noting that the new administration is involved already in disputes with China, Iran, and Russia. And it is learning that America’s allies have not, after all, been longing for the United States to reassume, after four years, her previous role of Eleanor Roosevelt, the international social worker in combat boots with a checkbook thrust into the tops of them and a combat rifle over her shoulder, as so many Democrats and neoconservatives were certain they had to be.
In Myanmar, Mead notes, Biden’s purely symbolic response to the military coup there has not impressed Asian governments, including that of India whose foreign minister has praised Japan’s cooperation in regional infrastructural projects. In India, most of the press has been outraged by Meena Harris’ encouragement of protesters against the Bharatiya Janata Party. In France, President Macron has said that American wokeness is incompatible with French culture and French national politics. The European Union is determined to pursue mercantilist policies with regard to China and Russia, against Washington’s expressed wishes. Iran shows no desire to revive the nuclear deal made six years ago; while Israel and the Arab States are alarmed by Biden’s intent to appease the Iranians by removing the sanctions against them. Turkey is angered by the new administration’s condemnation of Ankara’s response to students’ demonstrations on behalf of the LGBTQ “community.” President Andrés Manuel López delayed phoning Biden after the elections; has decided to limit Mexico’s collaboration with the U.S. against the drug trafficking business; and has offered to give Julian Assange political asylum…and so on, and so forth. In short, Mead says, while the new administration has an ambitious agenda, “many allies prefer a quiescent U.S. to an activist one….Americans often assume that other countries see U.S. leadership as a global public good, are grateful to Washington for providing it, and like us the more we lead. It doesn’t always work that way. Other governments tend to see U.S. leadership as, at best, a necessary evil….” Hence, “many allies, even close and democratic ones, embrace multilateralism as a way to limit America’s ability to press policies on them that they don’t like.” … Is it possible that a substantial part of the world may soon discover that it misses Donald Trump? (“Donnie, we hardly knew ye….”)
Meanwhile, back in the USA, a national poll conducted by Quinnipiac from last Thursday through Sunday reports that only one in five Republicans don’t wish Mr. Trump to have a leading future role in the GOP. According to Quinnipiac, 87% of Republicans believe that Trump should be legally qualified to run for public office. An analyst associated with the poll says, “He may be down, but he is certainly not out of favor with the GOP. Twice impeached, vilified by Democrats in the trial, and virtually silenced by the social media…despite it all, Donald Trump keeps a solid foothold in the Republican Party.”
Meanwhile too, Speaker Pelosi accomplished exactly nothing with her second lemming-like drive for impeachment, while largely ignoring the House’s important business. Meanwhile, finally, President Biden issued nearly 50 executive orders, every one of which might have been designed to enflame the 74-odd million people who cast their vote for his opponent last November: the temporary ban on drilling and leasing on federal land, and the cancellation of the XL pipeline especially. Here, not even nature is cooperating with him, as the Great Texas Blackout suggests. It may be the natural world has grown as impatient with American moral posturing, virtue signaling, hectoring, lecturing, and more aggressive forms of interference as the human one is becoming.