Rebuilding American Foreign Policy: Easier Said than Done!
For all the frantic, often chaotic political engagement swirling about us these days involving the pandemic, relief stimulus checks, trade war with China, recent cyber-attacks, and yes, our disastrous foreign policy, Americans may well be overlooking an even bigger problem: Have we unconsciously consigned the American Dream to the proverbial dustbin?
How realistic is U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s statement about rebuilding U.S. foreign policy and national security agencies post Trump era? While Mr. Biden’s statement sounds great, restoring the world confidence in the U.S. will be a challenge given the array of issues ranging from Afghanistan and Yemen to Libya and Russia.
But let us take a step back and assess what the core issues are; shall we!
While I remain optimistic and encouraged about such view, reality suggests otherwise. How could we restore confidence in the world when the trust of the American people in its own government is very low? How could we restore confidence in the world when America is in disarray: social inequality, broken tax system, dysfunctional education, mismanaged healthcare system, and poverty on the rise (nearly 8 millions), among others?
Speaking in Wilmington, Delaware recently, Mr. Biden met with a panel of experts at the Foreign Policy and National Security Committees. He noted that many of the U.S.’s national security agencies were severely damaged during the Trump administration. This is nothing new; for years, many have argued for a top to bottom review of the U.S. intelligence community including cybersecurity command. It comes on the heels of the recent revelations about cyber-attacks on U.S. government agencies and corporations.
Cybersecurity is not the only issue, the Biden administration will have to contend with. There is also the US-China trade war that has, thus far, tipped the balance in China’s favor. According to Andrew Browne of Bloomberg, China’s trade surplus with the U.S. has grown almost 25% since the start of the Trump presidency, exceeding $300 billion on an annualized basis. Similarly, China’s resurgent GDP is the result of its vastly more effective response to the pandemic that began there. China is the only country among 48 to have reported a second-quarter gross domestic product number that was higher than at the end of 2019, writes Jim McCormick of NatWest Markets. By contract, the U.S. economy shrank 9.5% in the second quarter, a drop that equals an annualized pace of 32.9%, its sharpest downturn since at least the 1940s.
My rationale for highlighting these stats is to provide a clear picture as to the challenges that await the Biden administration in convincing the world to follow the U.S. lead.
For all the saber rattling in the global market, China strikes me as pragmatic, even disciplined, in not wanting to throw into chaos a world system that, after all, has allowed it to acquire wealth, power, influence and status. China is gradually exhibiting its ability to challenge the U.S. in many areas. As to how Beijing will proceed moving forward, I believe China will base its foreign policy in coming years on strategic decisions, rather than short-term gains.
Biden’s statement comes at a crucial times as the global geopolitical landscape has shifted, wealth transferred from the West to the East, China is wealthier, North Korea has more nuclear weapons and better missiles, Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad still in power, and Nicolás Maduro is entrenched in Venezuela. Let us stop pretending; there is no going back!!!
Against this backdrop, it behooves the Biden administration to come to grip with reality: American foreign policy lacks clarity, vision, and sense of direction. The United States must realize and accept that it can no longer continue the status quo that has held since World War II.
Moving forward, the Biden’s foreign policy team needs to understand whether it can be creative enough to come up with new alternatives to America’s failed and ill-defined policies since 9/11. The U.S.’s ability to articulate its vision for how it intends to cooperate with other global powers and regional players is paramount. Yet, I wonder whether the U.S. can refrain from conducting a double standard foreign policy: one that supports tyrants and dictators while at the same time claiming to support free elections and human rights.
As argued in, The Dynamics of Russia’s Geopolitics: Remaking of Global Order book, American foreign policy leadership stands on a broken, fragmented foundation, on life support before its death. Look no further than what the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are doing in Yemen—the atrocities they are committing against defenseless civilian Yemenis using American and British weapons.
It will be interesting to see whether the Biden administration will stand idly by in the face of ongoing human rights atrocities and horrific abuses committed by countries like KSA, UAE, Egypt, Syria, and others. Will the Biden administration denounces these violations, demand compliance with democratic values or be reticent in its relations with the worst human rights abusers? Time will tell!
Regardless of what we hear from American foreign policy establishment, most of the debates and analyzes coming out of Washington amount to rhetoric and the mere consumption of ink. American foreign policy: heavy on rhetoric and empty on substance; dependent on a dysfunctional U.S. Congress (where policymakers need to stop serving their personal interests that eclipse their duty to govern); poisoned by the venom of tribal politics, injuring American democracy. Look no further at how we turned a blind eye on human rights atrocities in favor of economic incentives, then praised ourselves as the champion of the principles of democracy. If this is not a pure hypocrisy, I don’t know what is.
Let us hope our next president inaugurates the White House with meaningful considerations and effective strategies to save the day. We could all pay the consequences for failure.
David Oualaalou is a Geopolitical Consultant, Award Winning Educator, Veteran, Author, and former International Security analyst in Washington D.C.