Biden barely gets a passing grade when it comes to foreign policy
In evaluating the first 100 days of Joe Biden’s presidency, many progressives are singing the president’s praises. During a virtual town hall, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said that Biden “exceeded expectations that progressives had.” Professor Jeffrey Sachs claimed Biden is on his way to becoming “the most transformative president since Franklin D. Roosevelt.” Sure enough, on the domestic front, these 100 days have brought some exciting initiatives ranging from significant COVID economic relief and the vaccine rollout to massive infrastructure plans and serious proposals to address the climate crisis.
On the foreign policy front, however, many progressives are surprised and disappointed at how little has changed. There are bright spots, such as calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, extending the U.S.-Russia START treaty for another five years, rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, lifting sanctions Trump had imposed on International Criminal Court officials, and restoring aid to the dispossessed Palestinians.
But the pluses are few and even then, often compromised. In the case of Afghanistan, for example, adhering to the May 1 deadline negotiated by the Trump administration would have led the Taliban to continue peace talks and made the withdrawal easier. And while the Biden administration does seem determined to take the U.S. back into the Iran nuclear deal, it has dragged its feet, giving time for opponents to organize and making negotiations more difficult.
Among Biden’s greatest disappointments for progressives are:
–the proposed $753 billion national security budget, a 1.6 percent or $13 billion increase over the last budget enacted under the Trump’s administration, instead of the 10 percent decrease that many progressives are advocating;
–the inclusion of billions in Biden’s military budget for new nuclear weapons, part of a $1.7 trillion dollar “nuclear modernization plan” that flies in the face of the newly forged Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, signed by 50 countries to declare nuclear weapons illegal;
–the refusal to lift thousands of onerous sanctions on countries including Iran, Venezuela, Nicaragua, North Korea and Syria that are impeding importation of food and COVID relief to ordinary people, and are especially cruel during a pandemic;
–the hoarding of vaccine technology and failure to support the TRIPS waiver, which would temporarily waive intellectual property barriers and allow countries to locally manufacture COVID-19 vaccine and treatment technology, at the WTO;
–the authorization of massive weapons sales to two countries, Saudi Arabia and UAE, responsible for much of the destruction of Yemen. This is happening despite Biden’s campaign promise that the U.S. would no longer support the war on Yemen;
–the incendiary rhetoric and potential for military conflict against China and Russia as the Pentagon sends warships into the South China Sea and increases troop deployments on Russia’s western border;
–the continuation of unconditional support to Israel, despite growing calls for an even-handed policy that places conditions on U.S. aid to Israel and recognizes the rights of Palestinians, including an end to home demolitions, settlement expansion, and child detentions by Israeli authorities;
–the continuation of the failed Trump policy of recognizing the unelected Juan Guaido as interim President of Venezuela to undermine the government of twice-elected President Nicolás Maduro;
–maintenance of Trump’s additional sanctions and blockade of Cuba instead of returning to the Obama administration’s normalization policies;
–the failure to appoint a special envoy to oversee release, resettlement or civil trial of the remaining 40 Guantanamo prisoners, transfer appropriate prisoners and close the prison in Guantanamo, Cuba.
The American people are ready for a new foreign policy centered on cooperation, peace and diplomacy, especially in the face of the pandemic and the global climate crisis that demands a unified commitment to reduce greenhouse gases. That’s why it is so disappointing that Biden is, for the most part, continuing Trump’s bullying, militaristic policies on the global scene. And that’s why many anti-war organizations and activists will continue to push the administration to improve its foreign policy record in the next 100 days, while also urging Congress to reject Biden’s increased military budget.
Medea Benjamin is cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace, and author of several books, including “Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
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