What A Welcome Change!

One of the areas in which Donald Trump was inexperienced, uneducated, inept and incompetent was foreign policy.  President Biden, on the other hand, has vast experience in international relations and has dealt extensively with foreign policy both in his role as a Senator, and later as Vice President under President Obama.  During Trump’s four years in office, the United States became first a laughingstock around the globe, and then an object of horror as our allies came to realize that we were no longer a trusted friend, but a nation under erratic leadership that was both unpredictable and unstable.  It will take time to rebuild the trust and respect we once had, but if anybody is up to that challenge, I believe it is President Biden.

An OpEd by Max Boot in Thursday’s Washington Post summarizes my own feeling of our new leadership in terms of our relations with other nations.  I hope you’ll find a few minutes to watch President Biden’s speech* … for the first time in four years, we have heard a President speak on matters that concern us all … no yelling, no facial contortions, no chants of “Lock her up” … just sensible, intelligent speech.  And I thrilled to hear him say …

“We believe free press isn’t an adversary, rather it’s essential, free press is essential to the health of a democracy.”

Such a welcome change from his predecessor who never missed a chance to denigrate the press, calling them the “enemy of the people.”

With his foreign policy speech, Biden begins to repair the damage that Trump did

Max-BootOpinion by 

Max Boot


Feb. 4, 2021 at 6:40 p.m. EST

Joe Biden has given countless foreign policy speeches as a senator, vice president and presidential candidate. On Thursday, he went to the State Department to deliver his first foreign policy speech as president. His remarks were hardly radical, but they were important nonetheless, because they signal a new tone and a new attitude in U.S. foreign policy after four years of “America First.”

Biden made clear he understands that the damage done by former president Donald Trump, who was never mentioned by name, will not be repaired overnight. “We’ve moved quickly to begin restoring American engagement internationally,” Biden said, because it is imperative “to earn back our leadership position” and to reclaim “our credibility and moral authority.”

Although Biden proclaimed, “America is back. Diplomacy is back,” he showed keen awareness that other nations around the world will be distrustful of U.S. leadership after the disasters of the past four years. Why should anyone trust again a country that couldn’t handle a pandemic — and that just saw a violent insurrection in its Capitol?

No doubt Biden noticed what Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said to Axios a few days ago: “We are used to believing that the United States has the ideal democratic institutions, where power is transferred calmly. … In Ukraine, we lived through two revolutions. … We understood such things can happen in the world. But that it could happen in the United States? No one expected that. … I was very worried. … I did not want you to have a coup. After something like this, I believe it would be very difficult for the world to see the United States as a symbol of democracy.”

Biden tried to allay such concerns by suggesting that Trump’s attempts to overthrow democracy could actually make us more determined champions of freedom. “The American people will emerge from this stronger, more determined and better equipped to unite the world in fighting to defend democracy — because we have fought for it ourselves,” he said.

It’s a neat argument — trying to turn our weakness into strength — and I hope it’s true. But if the Senate votes to acquit Trump — as seems almost certain, given that all but five Republican senators voted to dismiss the charge — it will unfortunately send a message of impunity for misconduct that will undermine Biden’s efforts to rebuild confidence in America as the leader of the free world.

There is nothing Biden can do to force Republicans to do their duty. But he certainly is doing all that is in his power to reinvigorate American diplomacy and standing in the world. Much of what he had to say on Thursday would have sounded like tired banalities coming at any other point in our history — but given what we have just experienced, the familiar phrases that rolled off Biden’s lips sounded fresh and important.

He called for “defending freedom,” “upholding universal rights,” “respecting the rule of law” and “treating every person with dignity,” and he said those principles constitute “our inexhaustible source of strength” and “America’s abiding advantage.” On one level: No kidding. So what else is new? But on another level: Thank goodness he’s saying it! I felt like cheering while Biden was talking. Those are all concepts we once took for granted yet are now badly in need of articulation after Trump trashed them.

So, too, there was something deeply comforting in Biden, first, admitting that we must address “global challenges” ranging from “the pandemic to the climate crisis” and, second, asserting that these challenges will only “be solved by nations working together and in common.” This is not exactly a blinding insight, but we can no longer take anything for granted. Trump, too often, treated climate change as a hoax and the pandemic as a plot to depress his popularity ratings.

Biden also struck an “old is new” chord by calling out Russian dictator Vladimir Putin: “I made it clear to President Putin in a manner very different from my predecessor that the days of the United States rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions — interfering with our elections, cyberattacks, poisoning its citizens — are over.” He didn’t have a lot of specifics to offer — he did not unveil any new sanctions on Putin and his gang — but simply the fact that he spoke the truth about Russian attacks and demanded that Putin release jailed dissident Alexei Navalny marks a sharp and welcome break from the recent past.

Biden made clear that Russia isn’t the only dictatorship that is no longer going to receive a blank check from Washington: He announced that the United States will no longer support Saudi Arabia’s offensive operations in Yemen, which have produced a humanitarian catastrophe.

In a sense, Biden did not break much new ground: He merely said the kinds of things that any president before Trump would have said. But to hear them now, after four years of unhinged rhetoric and actions, is novel and newsworthy.

*Link to transcript of President Biden’s foreign policy speech

18 thoughts on “What A Welcome Change!

  1. Nice speech. Fine words, for the most part. Of course, we have to see what actions will follow. Until things start getting done, I hold my hopeful praise in reserve.

    But, I also see the problems, and so far nothing I have read or heard mentions them.
    Biden said, “because it is imperative “to earn back our leadership position” and to reclaim “our credibility and moral authority.” Well, I, for one, do not want the United States of America to regain it’s leadership position, not that it ever truly had such a position in the first place. America took a leadership position, I would say usurped that position, but it damned well never earned a leadership role. In fact, by having the gall to drop 2, count them 2, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, atomic bombs on Japan, the USA bullied their way to that leadership position. Had Hitler’s Nazi Germany developed such a bomb before America did, I have no doubt they would have used it. Hitler was a bully! Had Russia developed it first, maybe they would have used it. I don’t even know who was leading the Soviet Union at that point, or what his temperament was like. But it was developed by America, a military hawk nation, and instead of just using it as a threat, America dropped one atomic, and then a few days later, dropped another, just to prove it could. Yes, it ended a horrible, unconscionable war, but that war was ending anyway. Germany had been defeated by then, and Japan had had to retreat to its own shores. The end was is sight. But America could not resist using its new toy. One would have been sufficient, but no, they decided two were necessary. Over 200,000 people, mostly non-combatants, including women, children, babies, and senior citizens, murdered in two winks of an eye. Where is the honour? Where is the humanity?
    Sorry, got a bit carried away. (Upon re-reading, I take that back. I am not sorry for anything I said, and it probably needed to take at least that long to say it.)
    My point I want to make is that we cannot allow one country to lead by itself. Imagine another Trump, but one who wasn’t as cowardly as Trump. No! Leadership must be a joint effort, something like the United Nations. There must be real checks and balances, not just good intentions. And it has to include representatives from all types of governments, not just democracies. Intentionally leaving others out will lead to resentments, and I’ll show you! attitudes. What we need is inclusion, not delusion.
    And as for credibility and moral authority, as Brosephus pointed out yesterday (see Jill’s previous post), America has none of either. Their country is built on bloodshed and white superiority. Is it moral to wipe out less agressive peoples? Is it credible to never admit your own crimes against humanity while calling other nations to task for their crimes against humanity? No! It is not! in either instance.
    What we have in this world today is an opportunity to change how nations get along. Fighting a common enemy, Covid-19, should be teaching us something. No one is superior to anyone else! No one is more moral than anyone else! And everyone needs help from someone else, even America!
    No one can go it alone. Nor should anyone have to, or even want to.
    And anyone who disagrees with me can tell me all about it at gewcolo@gmail.com.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree with much, or most, of what you say, rawgod. What is needed is all nations working together to defeat the pandemic, to correct, as much as possible, the damage we have done to the planet’s environment. However, you cannot paint the entire nation with a broad brush, for there are good, conscionable people here as well as in any other nation. Yes, we have our share, perhaps more than our share, of greedy, power hungry bastards, but let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater, please.


      • Not what I am saying, Jill. I guess I need to be a lot more precise in my language, but I don’t know the names of all the people I am discussing, and it would take the rest of my life to type them. But I am talking about a zeitgeist of sorts. The dimensions behind the words. Biden wants to earn back a leadership role America never had, but acted as if they had. Look at Trump, he believed he was the ultimate American, only to have everything crash down around him, brought on by real Americans like you. He was a farce. His America was a farce. But even now almost half the population of America want that America to be real. The rest of the world cannot ignore that. Your eyes may be open, but they need to open a bit wider yet. And unless you tell me to stop commenting on your blogs, as Gronda did, I will continue to point these things out. That’s who I am.


  2. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    Very well said … “Biden did not break much new ground: He merely said the kinds of things that any president before Trump would have said. But to hear them now, after four years of unhinged rhetoric and actions, is novel and newsworthy.”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. … after four years of “America First.”

    Trump may have used the expression “America First.” But his policies were always “Donald Trump First.” Biden is changing that back to what “America First” should mean.

    There is nothing Biden can do to force Republicans to do their duty.

    I have very low expectations on what the Republicans will do. The last four years have revealed the extent of their moral corruption. It will be up to the voters, in the 2022 election, to send a message to the Republicans.

    The Biden presidency has already exceeded my expectations.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are so right … it was always “Donald Trump First” and to hell with the rest of us. His “America First” policies did far more harm than good, especially in our relationships with our allies. We lost the trust of the world in just four short years.

      No, Biden can’t, but perhaps if enough of We the People let them know what we think, both by contacting them, and later by voting out those who cannot find their consciences, we can force them to do their duty.

      I think the GOP is likely to implode in the next few years, for they are no longer respected, are the party of kooks & weirdos, and conspiracy theories. If they can rebuild themselves and return to a party that at least has some values, then perhaps, but it will take time.

      I’m glad to hear you say you’re pleased with the Biden presidency, for so am I.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Jill, it boils down to both inexperience and modus operandi. On the latter, the former president views everything in a transactional, a zero sum gum approach. This flies in the face of what John Nash won he Nobel Prize in economics for that we do better when everyone wins some. In the former president’s view, he must be able to claim a win (whether it is or not or whether he had any role or not) over another. Most every statement or action has to be adversarial, so relationships are harmed. To be frank, no one wants that kind of relationship doing it only if they have to. Keith

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good points, Keith. Inexperience, yes, but mainly modus operandi, for the former occupant of the Oval Office was incapable of empathy, incapable of setting aside his own desires in order to do the right thing. I honestly believe he is an evil ‘man’.


    • I’m not surprised, for I think the world breathed a collective sigh of relief when Joe Biden was elected and then finally inaugurated. Indeed, it did feel good … we can sleep better at nights now!

      Liked by 1 person

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