The new feature of Fair Observer FO° Insights gives meaning to current issues.
Even as US President Joe Biden leaves for his inaugural visit to Asia, US foreign policy is in upheaval following the disastrous Vietnamese withdrawal from Afghanistan and the catastrophic Russian-Ukrainian war.
Therefore, we spoke to editor Christopher Roper Schell, a Capitol Hill veteran who also worked on the Pentagon, to make sense of Biden’s foreign policy.
Christopher Roper Schell on Joe Biden’s Foreign Policy
How do you assess Joe Biden’s foreign policy?
Christopher Roper Schell: Biden’s foreign policy is coalition-based but weak and naïve.
Why? Because he does not consider realpolitik. Some people don’t care about your order based on rules or values that matter so much to you, or unimportant ideals in the face of power. In many ways, he’s a lot like Obama 2.0. Biden doesn’t necessarily enforce things, he just states what can’t be done.
What not to do? The red line in Syria comes to Obama’s mind. And Biden seems to be making another version of Obama. Politics is based on the notion that this is who we are. This statement often used by Biden as by Obama is totally meaningless.
Perhaps the most ridiculous thing is that Biden is simultaneously negotiating with the Iranians as he seeks to undercut Russia. However, he cringes whenever Russia mentions a nuclear weapon. Well, what do you think Iranians and others think? Get a nuke ASAP and no one bothers you.
Did Biden play his cards right against Russia in Ukraine?
Christopher Roper Schell: Biden was initially strong from the start. His decision to reveal classified information relating to an alleged fake Ukrainian incursion, which the Russians would then use as a provocation to retaliate, was a great idea, as was his decision to provide a list of names of people Moscow could have used to lead the war. ‘Ukraine.
However, from there, Biden’s will was signaled. Indeed, he was dragged virtually kicking and shouting to impose penalties. Once he saw that Congress was going to act, Biden didn’t want to be left behind. Likewise, when the Russians withdrew from northern Ukraine, we should have armed Mariupol to the teeth. We did not do it.
So there seems to be a lack of confidence or willingness to provide any real defense to the Ukrainians. For example, MiGs should have been sent to Ukraine. If the United States couldn’t send whole planes, why not cut them up and send them to Ukraine? Or leave the keys in the car and say we don’t know who took them…
So we end up in a situation where there could potentially be a frozen conflict for a long time. Ukraine could remain a rump state. And there doesn’t seem to be the will to make Russia lose, as Biden claims he wants.
What do you think of Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan?
Christopher Roper Schell: It was a masterstroke. It was brilliant. It was perfectly executed, no, just kidding. It was a dumpster fire. It was a mess. Now I grant you that Trump left Biden in a bad position. To the right? To the right?
Withdrawal timelines being what they are, Biden didn’t have a lot of good options but I mean, really, was that the best you could do with it? I mean, the area is now a mess.
On the American side, there had been no casualties for a year. We had 2,500 to 3,500 people there to keep control. And we removed everyone on a political timeline as contrived as 9/11.
It’s the day you decide you’re going to pull out, and when that doesn’t work out and you see it’s kind of going south, you think, oh, I know that doesn’t work out. Let’s move the timeline up, because that’s much better, right? No no.
Biden wanted a triumphant political closing ceremony for 20 years of 9/11. Instead, he got Saigon and I guarantee his advisors were like no rooftop helicopters, no rooftop helicopters. And when he had helicopters on the roofs, those same advisers were probably saying that nobody fell from the sky. Guess what? He dropped bodies from the sky eerily reminiscent of 9/11, and it was an absolute debacle. And of course, it also eroded American credibility. I mean, regionally, again, it’s a complete mess. So, dumpster fire!
How did Biden handle the Middle East?
Christopher Roper Schell: The Middle East is a mess. What’s new? However, the new caveat here is that Biden has absolutely infuriated the Saudis, and he has done so on many different fronts. I wrote about this in my first The view from the carriage shed.
And Biden has completely alienated the Saudis. They don’t even take his calls, and he asks them to pump more oil. It will not arrive. At the same time, Biden is negotiating a contract with the Iranians, the mortal enemy of the Saudis. So what do you think the Saudis are going to do?
You talk about the deregistration of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). You talk about giving Iranians all kinds of sweets. We already took the Houthis off the list and we wouldn’t even sell the Saudi Patriot missiles. So they’re pretty frustrated and the place is a mess and we don’t seem to be making any progress on the Iran deal.
It’s a cycle of negotiations wash-rinse-repeat, pocket the gains, return to the negotiating table, so the Middle East in general is not doing well at all.
Has Biden fared well with allies like France, Australia and India?
Christopher Roper Schell: France is America’s oldest ally, which is why it embarrassed the room a bit when the Australians decided to buy American submarines and not French submarines. The French seemed to be caught off guard and Biden was too. Biden claimed that honestly to God, he didn’t know the French hadn’t been told.
What kind of sense. I think he was probably the last guy to know. Nevertheless, Aussies are getting serious. They have been sanctioned by China in quite a profound way and they have recognized that China is a threat. The French are fine, you know, some fences have been repaired there.
Perhaps most interesting is the relationship with India, which is based on the QUAD. And I think America needs to come to a better understanding to get the better of India. The United States must recognize that India cannot just throw away 70% of its military hardware, which is Russian. He has to remember that the old days of non-alignment were not really non-aligned, there was a little more Russian influence and now is the time to recognize India’s past but also to forge a very strong relationship going forward.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Fair Observer.