A New US Foreign Policy? The Biden Speech in Munich Yesterday:Hot and Latest News
Your Ad Here

A New US Foreign Policy? The Biden Speech in Munich Yesterday

The media chat this morning will be about Vice President Joe Biden’s speech to the Munich Security Conference yesterday. Our own reading is that the easy part was Biden’s signals of difference from the Bush Administration. The US would act “preventively, not pre-emptively” (no more Iraq 2003, at least over the pretext of weapons of mass destruction) and multilaterally. The emphasis will not be on magic capabilities like Missile Defense, but on a wider range of diplomatic, economic, and military instruments.

“America will not torture. We will uphold the rights of those we bring to justice,” Biden asserted, and he also said that the US would be constructive in finding solutions to climate change.

At the same time, Biden was careful to play the “America will be tough” card, saying the US would “vigorously protect [its] security and values, and he had a not-so-veiled challenge, if not warning, to international partners. The US would uphold alliances if they were “credible and effective” (think back to George W. Bush’s 2002 lecture to the UN that it would not be “relevant” if it did not back military action over Iraq), and “America will ask for more from its partners”.

Which brings us to the hard part. The Obama Administration may be far more “realist” in its approach to foreign affairs than its predecessor, but the up-front choices are daunting. Biden tried to match the Russians in the competitive co-operation, saying the US would not tolerate a Russian “sphere of influence” but continuing, “The United States and Russia can disagree and still work together where our interests coincide, and they coincide in many places.”

On Iran, Biden stuck to the current script of possible diplomacy first but waved the stick: “Continue down the current course and there will be pressure and isolation; abandon the illicit nuclear program and your support for terrorism and there will be meaningful incentives.”

OK, so the hope of “engagement” continues to flicker. What the media missed is that, on two other cases, Biden’s signal is that the Obama White House may be charging ahead against perceived enemies, even if that rips up possible settlements and co-operation.

Consider this on the Middle East, which no one seemed to pick up yesterday or this morning: “We must consolidate the cease-fire in Gaza by working with Egypt and others to stop smuggling, and developing an international relief and reconstruction effort that strengthens the Palestinian Authority, and not Hamas.” So, despite all the evidence that beating up on Gaza — be it through Israeli military action or economic strangleholds — is not dislodging the Gazan leadership and actually weakening Mahmoud Abbas, the US (at least in its public signals) is going to keep playing at the game that it doesn’t have to accept the political realities. It will do so even if that means more deprivation and destruction in Gaza.

It is on Afghanisan/Pakistan, however, that this Administration could meet its downfall, and here Biden’s “realism” led him to say, if we go down, we all go down together: “”We look forward to sharing that commitment with the government and people of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and with all of our allies and partners, because a deteriorating situation in the region poses a security threat not just to the United States, but I would suggest, somewhat presumptively, to every one of you assembled in this room.”

The glimmer of light is that Biden also said the US “strategic review” on the two countries is not completed — code for the battle between President Obama and the military on the way forward — so Washington may pull back from its full-speed, military-first surge in Afghanistan.

If not, you can go back to Biden’s speech and see where all the talk of a new, multilateral relationship actually had the makings of an almighty bust-up between the US and its European partners.

Comments :

0 comments to “A New US Foreign Policy? The Biden Speech in Munich Yesterday”

Post a Comment