Commentary By Brett Davis September 21, 2021
President Joe Biden, addressing the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday for the first time since taking up residence in the White House, did what he does best. He embarrassed his country with a foreign policy speech that was detached from reality, full of straw men and false dichotomies, rambling and incoherent at times and — c’mon, man — punctuated by avuncular exasperation and fake bravado.
The 23-second video below captures the tone of Tuesday’s oration before the global body.
Biden, spinning like a centrifuge, stressed that the disastrous removal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan will open “a new era of relentless diplomacy.”
“Instead of continuing to fight the wars of the past,” Biden said, “we are fixing our eyes on devoting our resources to the challenges that hold the keys to our collective future: Ending this pandemic, addressing the climate crisis, managing shifts in global power dynamics, shaping the rules of the world on vital issues like trade, cyber and emerging technologies, and facing the threat of terrorism as it stands today.”
Taking on those problems requires foreign governments to “engage deeply with the rest of the world” and “work together with our partners toward a shared future,” Biden said, according to a White House copy of the speech.
Biden’s flowery verbiage is misplaced, belied by the reality of recent events.
American allies remain frustrated with Biden’s handling — mishandling — of last month’s chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal, including the Pentagon’s acknowledgment that a Kabul drone strike that was touted as “righteous” by Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had, in fact, killed 10 civilians, including seven children.
Americans remain trapped in the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, even as the Taliban tighten their bloody grip on the country by sweeping away what little opposition remains and killing anyone in-country who worked with the United States and its allies over the past two decades.
More recently, the Biden administration has found itself grappling with an angry French government still smarting over a new trilateral security pact with the United Kingdom and Australia, which saw Canberra reverse course on a multibillion-dollar deal it had brokered with Paris.
Nevertheless, Biden defended his administration’s international engagement over the past eight months. He argued he had “prioritized rebuilding our alliances, revitalizing our partnerships and recognizing they’re essential and central to America’s enduring security and prosperity.”
Biden’s take on other flashpoints around the world evidenced a similar naivete and refusal to acknowledge reality, including returning to the useless Iran nuclear deal (officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) and putting the North Korean nuclear genie back in the bottle.
“The United States will remain committed to preventing Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon. We are working with the P5 plus one to engage Iran diplomatically and to seek a return to the JCPOA,” Biden said, referring to the five members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany.
“We’re prepared to return to full compliance if Iran does the same. Similarly, we seek serious and sustained diplomacy to pursue the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Likewise, Biden reiterated his commitment to the pipe dream of a two-state solution regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“The commitment of the United States to Israel’s security is without question, and our support for an independent Jewish state is unequivocal,” Biden said.
“But I continue to believe that a two-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish democratic state living in peace alongside a viable sovereign and democratic Palestinian state.”
One glaring omission from the speech was any mention at all of China — the top international rival of the United States and, more importantly, the source of a pandemic that has killed more than 4 million citizens of the countries the United Nations delegates represent. Maybe even Biden’s speechwriters couldn’t find a way to spin a China reference in anything like a positive direction.
Biden’s weakness on the world stage is in sharp contrast to President Donald Trump’s more muscular approach to foreign policy, including a deal negotiated with the Taliban that resulted in no U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan for 18 months, withdrawing from the JCPOA while making Iran a pariah in its own Middle East neighborhood, easing tensions with North Korea, and ignoring the Palestinian Authority to facilitate the Abraham Accords between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
That’s what effective leadership looks like. Biden’s appearance at the U.N. on Tuesday — a bumbling fool with a fool’s record of failure — was exactly the opposite.
Brett Davis, Contributor,
Brett Davis, who earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Western Washington University, has written for newspapers, public policy organizations, a major humanitarian institution and a software company. Brett lives in Federal Way, Washington, just south of Seattle.