Biden's 'America is Back' pledge leaves the world unimpressed

Biden's 'America is Back' pledge leaves the world unimpressed
© Getty Images

Among Democrats, it was an article of faith that the election of Joe Biden would trigger resounding cheers throughout the world and expressions of profound gratitude that America was resuming its historic role as leader of the free world. It didn’t happen.  

Although America’s allies and enemies shed few tears over the electoral demise of Donald TrumpDonald TrumpSt. Louis lawyer who pointed gun at Black Lives Matter protesters considering Senate run Chauvin found guilty as nation exhales US says Iran negotiations are 'positive' MORE, it is abundantly clear that there are deeper explanations for the fact that the world today is looking at America through very different eyes — a reappraisal that dramatically accelerated during the stunning events that characterized the United States’s “annus horribilis” of 2020.      

Evidence of this remarkable attitudinal change is found in the recent survey by the European Council on Foreign Relations of public opinion in its 11 member states. The most startling finding of this poll is that “majorities in key member states now think the U.S. political system is broken, that China will be more powerful than the U.S. within a decade, and that Europeans cannot rely on the U.S. to defend them.” Particularly alarming is that among America’s historically closest allies, the conviction that the U.S. political system is “broken” is strongest — 66 percent of the French, 71 percent of Germans, and a shocking 81 percent of the British. 


In light of these numbers, it is less surprising that by margins well over 2-to-1, European public opinion is that in conflicts between the U.S. and China, or Russia, their countries should remain neutral.        

The practical consequence of this new reality was well illustrated by the tepid reception received by President BidenJoe BidenBiden overruled Blinken, top officials on initial refugee cap decision: report Suicide bombing hits Afghan security forces Jim Jordan, Val Demings get in shouting match about police during hearing MORE at the recent Munich Security Conference, where the European Union’s principal leader, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, made clear the EU is all in on its recent trade pact with China and that Germany is fully committed to the completion of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline with Russia, despite strenuous U.S. objections. France’s President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - All US adults can get vaccine; decision Friday on J&J vax France imposes travel restrictions on four countries to keep out coronavirus variants Macron: Russian presence at Ukraine border is 'absolutely counterproductive and unacceptable' MORE further aggravated the U.S. delegation by renewing his call for European “strategic autonomy,” which would involve a separate European army apart from NATO. In a subsequent speech, Macron added insult to injury by pointedly denouncing the American political-cultural phenomena of “wokeness” as a serious threat to Europe.

Lest anyone think America’s problems are with Europe alone, take note of the sharp rebuffs the U.S. has received in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, as detailed in Walter Russell Mead’s recent column in the Wall Street Journal, “Biden’s rough start with the world.”        

This catalogue of foreign policy woes includes clashes with India over the latter’s refusal to join U.S. sanctions against neighboring Myanmar, a situation exacerbated by popular outrage over Vice President Harris’s niece’s apparent support for anti-government protesters. In the Middle East, Biden’s tilt toward Iran has failed to charm the mullahs but has infuriated Israel and the conservative Arab monarchies. Also, Turkish President Erdogan is still smarting over Biden’s campaign promise to assist his opposition, as well as recent criticism of his mistreatment of LGBT protesters.   

In the western hemisphere, the new administration has experienced conflicts with Brazil over deforestation in the Amazon, with Mexico over collaboration to control drug trafficking, and with Canada over cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline.        


Amidst all these red flags, none is more disturbing than the above-noted poll of European public attitudes toward the United States. Without doubt, these altered attitudes have been noticed by most other governments around the globe, and some inevitably have reached similar conclusions.

World opinion about the U.S. is, to a great extent, shaped by news reporting in our own country. Are foreigners likely to have confidence in a country that within the past year became a panorama of riot-torn burning cities with a backdrop of political and cultural self-flagellation?  Will they trust this country when the New York Times, via its “1619 Project,” echoed by others in mainstream media, declares that slavery is not an element of American history but rather its defining characteristic?

Clearly, our allies apprehensively view America as a “self-broken” country, adrift and unreliable. Our enemies, notably China and Russia, see weakness and decline — and opportunities for them to challenge the United States at the times and places of their choosing. In the perilous days of the nation’s founding, Thomas Paine famously wrote: “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Such times appear to be upon us once again.

William Moloney, Ph.D., is a Fellow in Conservative Thought at Colorado Christian University’s Centennial institute, who studied at Oxford and the University of London. He is a former Colorado Commissioner of Education.