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Become a Fan
Part I -- Stale Foreign Policy
Almost everyone in the West who is not a fan of Donald Trump -- and if they are a fan, their sanity is to be doubted -- assumes that U.S. President Joe Biden is now helping to save both the United States and the world. In some categories such as climate change, environmental regulation, economic reform favoring the poor and middle class, equal rights and, of course, combating the COVID-19 virus, they might have a point.
Nonetheless, it really saddens me to say that, at least in this author's opinion, President Biden is not "the sharpest tack in the box." That is, he is not the smartest guy in Washington, D.C. On the other hand, Joe has a strong point. He has the good fortune to have drawn together some very strong and progressive advisers on the domestic side of the political equation. It would also seem that, unlike his predecessor, Biden has the capability to actually listen to these people. He also has accommodated himself to the pressure put forth by true progressives such as Bernie Sanders.
The one exception to this wealth of good advice is on the other half of the job, in the area of foreign policy, in particular foreign policy toward the Middle East, and specifically policy toward the country of Israel. Here is where Joe has difficulty thinking straight and is out of luck with his chosen advisers.
To wit, Andrew Bacevich of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft:
"Beneath a veneer of gender and racial diversity, the Biden national security team consists of seasoned operatives who earned their spurs in Washington long before Donald Trump showed up to spoil the party. So, if you're looking for fresh faces at the departments of state or defense, the National Security Council or the various intelligence agencies, you'll have to search pretty hard. Ditto, if you're looking for fresh insights. In Washington, members of the foreign policy establishment recite stale bromides, even as they divert attention from a dead past to which they remain devoted."
Part II -- Analytical Shortcomings Nos. 1 and 1A: Policy Formulation toward Israel and the Palestinians
In the field of U.S.-Israeli relations, there are two areas where President Biden's analytical shortcomings show themselves.
(1) The inability to formulate foreign policy that takes into account the behavior of the object of that policy.
President Biden says "my commitment to Israel is completely unshakable. As president, I'm going to continue our security assistance...and maintain Israel's qualitative military edge. I'm not going to place conditions for the security assistance." Essentially, this position abdicates U.S. national interests in favor of Israeli interests.
Here is a metaphor for such blind commitment. Think of how one adjusts attitudes toward friendships held over time. If you had a friend (we will refer to this friend as male) who, for whatever reason, evolved into a robber, would you give him a gun every year on his birthday? Would you do that because you remember he was a battered child and you think the arsenal you provide will make him feel secure and, hopefully, lead him to give up his criminal behavior? Or maybe you think he needs the gun because he lives in a bad neighborhood?
Biden believes that "Israelis wake up every morning facing an existential threat. That's why we always have to be adamant that Israel must be able to defend itself." But this is just a long-obsolete rationalization for spoiling your friend, who turns out to be head of the strongest gang on the block.
In the meantime, Biden points fingers at his predecessor for adopting exactly the same stance toward the Saudi Kingdom. Biden complained that "Donald Trump has given the government of Saudi Arabia a blank check to pursue a disastrous set of policies."
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