Biden has repeatedly said that “America is back” and has vowed to reclaim the U.S. leadership after Trump by challenging the growing authoritarianism ambitions of China and Russia. Noble intentions and principled goals; however, will not fix the issue of America’s deteriorating international status, nor will they assist the new administration in effectively implementing its foreign policy. According to Biden, America cannot continue to be absent from the global stage any longer. But the unanswered question is “How are you going to do that?”
It is blatantly obvious that the American people would not want another war and economic sanctions would take years to have much impact, if any, as Iran, Russia, China, and Venezuela have successfully survived years of these sanctions. In addition, as U.S. has other critical interests, it seems unwise to keep the entire relationship hostage to human rights. In general, the United States is having trouble achieving its objectives because there is no consensus in international community over these issues and the U.S. cannot force anyone to act as it orders. The truth is that the Unites States has lost the trust of the world during Trump administration and cannot succeed alone.
Biden’s main challenge in Europe is to persuade the U.S.’s most important economic, military and political partners to re-trust America. Some speculate that the United States, which has been the world’s most powerful democracy, has now lost its edge; therefore, convincing partners that U.S. is a again capable of leading the world will prove almost impossible. According to Mark Leonard, the director of the European Council on Foreign Relations, while most Europeans were pleased to see Biden elected, they also believe that America’s political system is broken and they cannot count on the U.S. to protect them, and the China will replace the U.S. as the super power. Europeans like what Biden advocates, but they are skeptical of Biden and in general the U.S. ability to deliver the promises, and they are concerned with who will come after him.
Given the complexities of US-Europe relations, any negligence on the part of Biden administration will permanently separate these strategic allies. Japan and South Korea – U.S. old allies – have recently entered in a long term cooperation with China by signing the world’s largest free trade agreement – ASEAN – in the absence of the United States and its allies.
America’s international reputation has diminished to the point that persuading the key Western partners to join forces against China would be challenging. Most Europeans, according to Leonard, prefer to remain neutral rather than side with America. To restore allies’ confidence, Biden administration will have to reconsider its strategy and not presume that other countries would immediately obey American leadership. Above all, this administration must demonstrate that the United States has the power to lead the whole world.
How can this administration claim to lead the world with a State Department plagued with poor leadership, shortage of staff and inexperienced staff? Biden administration has inherited a paralyzed State Department where several career experts quit because they had been excluded from major foreign policy decisions. The leader of the department, Pompeo fired Steve Linick because he was investigating him for using personnel for personal purposes!
The reality is that Biden has become President at a time when the U.S. global influence has plummeted and the administration must primarily focus on domestic issues. Over the last 40 years the United States has wasted a total of more than 4500 billion dollars in Middle East out of the pockets of American taxpayers. The continued military presence in the Middle East should end through political solutions and the foreign policy should focus on the threat of China as they have zeroed in on stealing the leadership.
*Timothy Hopper, an international relations graduate of American University