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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 2/24/21

PATRICK LAWRENCE: Biden's Missing Link with Europe

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From Consortium News

President Joe Biden at the White House, Feb. 1.
President Joe Biden at the White House, Feb. 1.
(Image by (White House, Adam Schultz))
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President Joe Biden at last got his chance to "sit at the head of the table" when he addressed (virtually, of course) the annual Munich Security Conference on Friday. Finally, he was able to repeat for America's traditional European allies that endlessly rehearsed line of his, "America is back."

It does not appear that those in attendance, notably the German and French leaders, tucked into their shared repast with anything remotely close to gusto. Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron seemed to wonder more or less out loud whether to take Biden's "America is back" as a promise or a threat.

America's political elites are so accustomed to swindling their citizenry with abandon that they make the fatal mistake of assuming they can bamboozle their counterparts abroad just as easily. Uh-uh. What it comes to, time and again, is lousy statecraft that leaves America and Americans that much further from the 21st century's perfectly obvious realities chief among them that the table is round now and nobody sits at its head.

"We must demonstrate that democracies can still deliver for our people," Biden told the Munich session from the East Room of the White House. "That is our galvanizing mission. Democracy doesn't happen by accident. We have to defend it. Strengthen it. Renew it. We have to prove that our model isn't a relic of our history."

There are two ways to read these remarks. One, Biden's apparent intent was to curtain-raise the "global summit of democracies" his regime plans to convene with Big Joe again at the head of the table later this year. As a tin-eared attempt to recapitulate the West's superiority over the rest, this venture is so fated to flop that it is a fair question whether Biden's people will go through with it.

The West Grows Weary of the West

Apart from the U.S., even the West grows weary of "the West," it seems. This is an excellent thing. My bet: The main-chancers managing Biden's foreign and national-security policies will quietly ditch this project to spare their boss the embarrassment.

Two, one can but marvel at Biden's nerve in going anywhere near the matter of delivering for "our people." Promised relief checks are nowhere to be found, there will be no student debt forgiveness, no "public option" incorporated into our health care system, no $15-an-hour wage, millions of Americans cannot meet their bills, there are bread lines across the country, privatized public goods are failing: Does Biden think the rest of the world does not notice and can be as cavalierly flimflammed as those suckered into voting for him last November?

Here is Chancellor Merkel , speaking after Biden called on the Europeans to "prepare together for a long-term strategic competition with China," to revive the NATO military alliance, and to sign on for a common response to all those alleged Russian interventions for which no shred of evidence has ever been presented:

"In recent years, China has gained global clout, and as trans-Atlantic partners and democracies, we must do something to counter this". Russia continually entangles European Union members in hybrid conflicts. Consequently, it is important that we come up with a trans-Atlantic agenda toward Russia that makes cooperative offers on the one hand, but on the other very clearly names the differences."

And here is Macron, who famously termed NATO "brain dead" in an interview with The Economisttwo years ago and who evinces a pronounced Gaullist streak on the question of Europe's "strategic autonomy," as he puts it

"I do believe in NATO...I do believe NATO needs a new political momentum and clarification of its strategic concept. NATO needs a more political approach...I do believe the best possible involvement of Europe within NATO is to be much more in charge of its own security."

This is how Europeans have come to humor American blowhards such as Biden. Yes, we must "do something" about China and we must "name the differences" with Russia both thoughts falling well short of the new Cold War Biden urged. Yes, NATO is OK, but it ought to think politically as against militarily, and as a Cold War institution it is indeed outmoded.

European Parrying Act

We can also call this parrying, an activity Europeans have got very good at since it became clear, at least as far back as the Obama administration, that Americans simply do not understand the dynamics of our new century.

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Patrick Lawrence is a columnist, author, editor, and educator. He has published five books and currently writes foreign affairs commentary for Consortium News and other publications. He served as a correspondent abroad for many years and is (more...)

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