5 Early Unforced Joe Biden Foreign Policy Errors

COMMENTARY Defense

5 Early Unforced Joe Biden Foreign Policy Errors

Feb 2nd, 2021 4 min read
COMMENTARY BY
James Jay Carafano

Vice President, Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute

James Jay Carafano is a leading expert in national security and foreign policy challenges.
President Joe Biden walks to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on January 29, 2021. Drew Angerer / Staff / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

Biden doesn’t have much to brag about on the foreign relations front.

In his first week in the Oval Office, the president seemed determined to elevate partisan politics over good policy.

Here are five frustrating moves he has made that delight the radical left but bode ill for American prosperity and security.

President Joe Biden was scheduled to deliver his first major speech on foreign policy today. Instead, it was postponed “due to inclement weather.” Apparently, the two inches of snow that fell on the capital this weekend made travel too risky.

It’s just as well that the speech was rescheduled. After all, Biden doesn’t have much to brag about on the foreign relations front. Indeed, in his first week in the Oval Office, the president seemed determined to elevate partisan politics over good policy. Here are five frustrating moves he has made that delight the radical left but bode ill for American prosperity and security.

1. Cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline. This energy project would have more than doubled the nation’s pipeline capacity to import Canadian crude oil efficiently, economically and safely via pipeline. Biden blocked it on day one.

That’s bad climate policy. The oil will now be transported via alternative means that will create more greenhouse gasses.

It’s bad economics. The cancellation will kill thousands of jobs and raise energy costs in the U.S. and Canada.

It’s bad strategy, undermining U.S. energy security.

And it is, above all, bad foreign policy—a financial body blow to America’s closest ally. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney called the move a “gut punch.”

America can best transition to an environmentally sustainable future by building up our economy and exercising global energy leadership through strength. Killing Keystone XL does none of that.

2. Clumsy on Climate. Biden decided to rejoin the Paris climate agreement. The Trump administration had pulled out of the agreement because its provisions did nothing to restrain the world’s biggest emitter, China. Meanwhile, it would have imposed tremendous costs on the United States, without lowering global temperatures by any discernable amount.

None of the signatories have come even close to hitting the targets established in the agreement. Indeed, China’s greenhouse gas emissions are now double that of America and higher than when Beijing signed on.

Meanwhile, the United States has made remarkable progress outside the agreement by relying on the power of market forces. Our per capita carbon emissions have declined for the last decade—a record unmatched by any other country. There is simply no good reason to rejoin the pact.

There is, however, great danger in rejoining. It all boils down to what winds up in Biden’s “nationally determined contribution” (NDC), a country’s domestic plan to reduce national emissions under the agreement. The NDC is likely to call for centrally-directed government interventions to “green” America faster. And these types of intervention invariably stymie innovation and misallocate taxpayer dollars. Often, they end in scandal. (Remember Solyndra?)

Market-based solutions would better lead a transition to a real “green industrial revolution.” Rejoining Paris is an arm-twisting expediency to drive a radical political agenda that will make America less competitive in a highly competitive world.

3. Nothing New for New START. The Obama administration struck a nuclear arms control deal with Russia that didn’t really control much of anything. The treaty only covered 45% of Putin’s arsenal. It allowed Russia to build more nuclear weapons (while requiring the U.S. to reduce its nuclear arms). And to cap it off, the treaty featured a very weak verification system.

With New START due to expire, the last administration was negotiating for a better deal. The Biden team ignored all that work. Instead, it wants to sign a five-year extension of Obama’s deal.

In a world where both Russia and China are becoming more dangerous nuclear nations, verifiable agreements that reduce threats are more important than ever. Signing up for same-old, same-old sends a terrible signal that the Biden administration is more anxious to honor Obama-era mistakes and the left’s arms control agenda than deliver real arms control.

4. Irresponsible Immigration Policies. One irrefutable success of the last administration was securing better control of our Southern border and enforcing immigration laws. Biden is trying to undo all that.

He halted building of the border wall, introduced a radical amnesty bill and immediately began suspending or reversing policies that had led to tighter border security and the enforcement of immigration law. These are open border policies pose real threats to the safety, health, prosperity and security of all Americans.

Biden’s pronouncements and actions have already triggered a new rush of illegal immigrants. With strong borders we can remain a nation of immigrants, grow our economy and protect our citizen. But this wholesale retreat from border security is the clearest sign that Biden is willing to put the left’s politics above the interests of our citizens.

5. Muddling the Middle East. Before the last team left the White House, they had crushed the Caliphate, boxed in Iran, and normalized relations between Israel and the Arab nations. This established the strongest foundation for stability in the Middle East that we have had in a generation.

But rather than build on this real success, the Biden team delivered equivocal and confusing messages about returning to the Iran Deal—another example of one-sided, Obama-era “statecraft” that enriched and empowered the greatest destabilizing force in the Middle East.

The White House should be building on policies to promote collective security and economic cooperation that blocks Iran, China and Russia. That would be good for America. Instead, Biden seems more concerned with resurrecting Obama’s failed Middle East agenda. 

This piece originally appeared in National Interest on 2/1/21 https://nationalinterest.org/feature/five-early-unforced-joe-biden-foreign-policy-errors-177426