4 February 2021   Leave a comment

US President Biden made his first foreign policy speech today. I listened to it and I was struck by the direct repudiation of the “America First” policy pursued by former President Trump. I will wait until the transcript of the speech is published before I analyze it carefully. But I was encouraged by his words earlier to the State Department:

“And finally, to successfully reassert our diplomacy and keep Americans safe, prosperous, and free, we must restore the health and morale of our foreign policy institutions.  

“I want the people who work in this building and our embassies and consulates around the world to know: I value your expertise and I respect you, and I will have your back.  This administration is going to empower you to do your jobs, not target or politicize you.  We want a rigorous debate that brings all perspectives and makes room for dissent.  That’s how we’ll get the best possible policy outcomes. 

“So, with your help, the United States will again lead not just by the example of our power but the power of our example.”

I was also encouraged by his strong support for the multilateral organizations, such as NATO, which were deprecated by the previous administration.

President Biden not only repudiated much of Trump’s foreign policy, but he went further to reverse one of President Obama’s positions on support for the Saudi Arabian war against Yemen. The Associated Press quotes from Biden’s speech:

“‘The war has created a humanitarian and strategic catastrophe,’ Biden told diplomats in his first visit to the State Department as president. ‘This war has to end.’”

“The Yemen reversal is one of a series of changes Biden laid out Thursday that he said would mark a course correction for U.S. foreign policy. That’s after President Donald Trump — and some Republican and Democratic administrations before his — often aided authoritarian leaders abroad in the name of stability.

“The announcement on Yemen fulfills a campaign pledge. But it also shows Biden putting the spotlight on a major humanitarian crisis that the United States has helped aggravate. The reversing of policy also comes as a rebuke to Saudi Arabia, a global oil giant and U.S. strategic partner.”

The decision will no doubt disappoint the Saudis as well as the US corporations which were intent on selling weapons to Saudi Arabia. But it is an important step in the right direction as well as a clear indication that Biden is intent on forging his own path in foreign policy.

Posted February 4, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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