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President Biden's Foreign Policy Challenges

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Message Jason Sibert

The powers that be in the United States foreign policy establishment do not understand the limits of the power.

And it's having a big impact on the size of all nation's military arsenals and on the struggle for peace. President Joe Biden said our country should lead "not merely by the example of our power, but by the power of our example," in contrast to the "America First" policy of President Donald Trump. However, it's unclear if Biden's ideas are in synch with traditional liberal internationalism.

For the last thirty years, presidents, including Trump, have preferred a policy of expanded wars, forward deployments, and defense commitments in pursuit of armed dominance across the globe, as stated by Stephen Wertheim in his story "Delusions of Dominance." By seeking dominance, and refusing to share power, the United States has acquired a world full of opponents, and these opponents have also contributed to a more dangerous world.

Biden stated his goals are finishing the war on Covid-19, strengthening our democratic culture, fighting climate change, and reestablishing U.S. diplomacy as a force in the world. However, the familiar post-Cold War strategy of dominating all corners of the globe contradicts all of Biden's goals. There are positive things the president can do such as return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran before Iran's elections this summer and reverse the momentum in Iran toward the direction of war. Biden can also abide by the terms of the Doha Agreement with the Taliban and withdraw all troops from Afghanistan. He must go big on both or see his efforts fail, as stated by Wertheim.

Wertheim recommended against continuing to use Trump's sanctions on Iran as leverage and returning to the JCPOA as soon as possible; pursuing a normalized relationship with Iran rounds out a credible strategy. Biden must also terminate support for the war in Yemen, stop selling Saudi Arabia arms in that effort, and cut aid to Israel. These measures are what it takes to restore diplomatic credibility in the Middle East. Our policy needs to be more balanced and not favor one set of players against the other.

However, there are members of the foreign policy establishment that view endless war as the only rational policy. Since the end of the Cold War, we've maintained a force capable of projecting power across the globe through a network of bases and also given other powers (China and Russia) a reason to check our power. Biden should break from this idea in the first six months of his administration. Naturally, he will face accusations that he's being soft on enemies.

The object of our foreign policy should be in line with the principles of liberal internationalism, keeping countries - regardless of the form of government - from disturbing the peace and invading their neighbors. Transforming Iran or Afghanistan into something like our country should not play a role, as Wertheim stated. In abandoning the goal of transforming countries, the U.S. will lose enemies.

A similar strategy should be followed in North Korea. Unfortunately, the country might possess nuclear weapons for some time in the future. Our strategy should be to reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula and move to normalized relations. The eventual withdrawal of troops from South Korea should be a goal. If the nature of North Korea's government changes in the future, then nuclear disarmament will become a goal for the country.

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Jason Sibert worked for the Suburban Journals in the St. Louis area as a staff writer for a decade. His work has been published in a variety of publications since then and he is currently the executive director of the Peace Economy Project.
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