Biden Returns to Obama’s Feckless Foreign Policy

No worse friend, no better enemy.

Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

It was said of the Roman generalissimo Sulla that there was no better friend or worse enemy than he. This maxim of foreign policy––support and help your loyal allies, and damage and punish your enemies––was proven common sense for millennia. Then came the age of moralizing internationalism, the belief that a “new world order” had made that realist truth anachronistic and primitive, a reflection of our benighted past. Now diplomatic engagement, democracy promotion, foreign aid, and multinational institution see to global security, peace, and prosperity.

As a result, today there is no worse friend, and no better enemy than the West’s foreign policy and national security agencies.

Our foreign policy establishment has long clung tightly to these outworn “new world order”
narratives and paradigms despite the empirical evidence that such appeasing policies embolden and strengthen our enemies and convince them of our weakness. Exhibit number one is Obama’s involvement of the U.S. in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or Iran nuclear deal, a multinational compendium of empty promises, unenforceable conditions, and American danegeld. By the end of Obama’s second term it was obvious that Iran had no intention of giving up its nuclear weapons programs, its development of missiles to carry nuclear warheads, and its jihadist aggression in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen fomented by its proxies.

The last four years provide the evidence of that foreign policy failure. Donald Trump’s more realist Middle East policies signaled to the world that the U.S. was no long an indulgent, dotty Uncle Sam who would ignore provocations and assaults on our security and interests, or reward with foreign aid empty promises scrawled on “parchment barriers.” Instead of the wishful thinking of “diplomatic engagement,” Swiss-cheese agreements, and unreciprocated concessions, Trump took decisive action. He left the Iran nuclear agreement, imposed harsh sanctions on the regime, and punished its aggression with direct attacks on Iranian Republican Guard leaders, the most serious being the killing of Qassem Soleimani, head honcho of Iran’s imperialist Quds Forces abroad.

Now we have Joe Biden as Commander-in-Chief, whom ex Defense Secretary Robert Gates said “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” So of course, Biden is returning to his old boss Obama’s failed foreign policy on Iran. This reverse of Trump’s successful approach will accelerate the mullahs’ development of nuclear weapons, even as it jeopardizes the security and interests of our regional allies like Saudi Arabia and Israel, both of which Iran has named as targets for annihilation, and both of whom Biden has snubbed.

Biden apologists, of course, are trumpeting the recent airstrike on weapon depts and a convoy on the Syria-Iraq border as a bold act of deterrence. But consider the equation: Iranian proxies kill and wound Americans, and we retaliate by killing other Iranian proxies.  That’s not even tit-for-tat, let alone the calibrated escalation of punishment needed to deter more attacks. Iran has a lot of proxies it can spare, and is happy to spend a few as a cheap price for bearding the American lion and putting our weakness on global display.

True deterrence comes from making such aggression more costly and painful, as the Soleimani killing did. You kill Americans, we kill high profile Iranians, not disposable proxies whom Iran uses as cannon fodder. Biden needs to take lessons from Israel, which in 2020 alone hit 50 targets in Syria not just to retaliate for aggression, but to preempt future attacks from Iran’s proxies.

The mildness of Biden’s response, moreover, has had no impact on Iran’s behavior. Indeed, Iran has scorned Biden’s outreach to start negotiations over the JCPOA; blew off an EU meeting on reviving the nuclear plan, a meeting that Biden publicly committed the U.S. to attend; denied the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspectors access to nuclear facilities; and is threatening to enrich uranium to the 60% weapons-grade level.

Biden’s response? He announced that Washington can’t “snap back” sanctions on Iran in retaliation for violating the agreement, and is trying to get South Korea to unfreeze $1 billion of Iranian money. Meanwhile, Iran remains adamant that there will be no negotiated settlement and no concessions unless all its demands are met, which means a return to the old flawed agreement, and a removal of Trump’s punitive sanctions that had Iran on the ropes.

Biden’s blunders matter because Iran isn’t just America’s or Israel’s problem. A nuclear-armed Iran, given its proximity to vast oil reserves and shipping lanes, will be a danger to the whole “rules-based international order,” not just to the interests and security of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. It’s bad enough when a pygmy-state like North Korean, one on permanent life-support from China, acquires a nuclear weapon and becomes virtually untouchable. But corrupt thugocracy living large is unlikely to commit suicide by testing our nuclear resolve.

But Iran is a much more consequential enemy, one that our Western categories of secularism and globalism cannot understand in its own terms. Apart from possessing the world’s fourth-largest oil reserves, Iran is an adherent of one of history’s most successful imperialist faiths, which conquered, occupied, and colonized two-thirds of the Roman Empire. Its tenets make such conquest and Islamization a divine imperative, as encoded in Muhammed’s proclamation, “I was told to fight all men until the say there is not god but Allah.”

This command has been repeated over the centuries down to our own times, when the leader of the Iranian Revolution, the Ayatollah Khomeini, announced that “we shall export our revolution to the whole world.” And if apologists want to misinterpret that promise as referring to mere proselytizing, Khomeini also said, “Kill all the unbelievers as they would kill you!” Iran has made good on that precept for over forty years, using proxies like Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, who in 1983 murdered 241 American troops in Beirut, and are still killing Americans today.

An enemy that declares war on you, proves it by killing your citizens and allies for decades, and actively seeks weapons of mass destruction to hasten its apocalyptic end of history when the whole world becomes slaves of Allah, you’d better take him at his word rather than rationalize or attribute his behavior to anti-colonialist grudges, the lack of democracy, or perceived slights to his religion. Under foreign policies of both parties our country has failed at its highest duty, to keep its people safe from its enemies by confronting threats directly rather than avoiding the reckoning by relying on the magical-thinking of  diplomatic engagement and concessions to a committed enemy.

That’s being no better enemy––one that serves its rivals’ interests at our own expense.

As for being no better friend, such loyalty to allies is predicated on their reciprocity. As of now, we are getting little help from our allies––meaning NATO countries­­–– whom the New World Order clerks allege Trump so callously and stupidly alienated. But allies deserve consideration when they collaborate on policies that affect the alliance as whole, and don’t sacrifice our interest to theirs. The Europeans may think that Iranian nuclear weapons would not threaten them, but that would be gross negligence of the obligation to both their allies and their own peoples whom it is their duty to keep from harm.

And a nuclear-armed Iran would threaten Europe. The mullahs don’t like the EU any more than they do the U.S. Both represent the Christian West that starting in the late 17th century began the incursion of European powers into the House of Islam, relegating Muslim nations to backward client-states of the same infidels who for a thousand years trembled at the approach of Islam’s warriors, privateers, and slavers.

Yet despite that threat, England, France, and Germany undermined Trump’s attempt to get our “allies” to see past their parochial commercial interests and help check this potential threat. They have created financial work-arounds to help Iran avoid sanctions, and refused to put their economic weight behind Trump’s policy of maximum pressure on the regime. Nor should we be surprised. Despite the globalist, one-world rhetoric of the Davoisie, sovereign nations accountable to voters pursue their own interests as they understand them. That’s what it means to be “sovereign.”

The problem arises when such allies are reaping disproportionate benefits from their most important ally, the U.S. The over 80 years of military and financial support for the European nations has earned us some consideration for our interests and security, particularly when in a globally integrated economy both are bound up with Europe’s. But whether it’s facilitating Iran’s nuclear ambitions, or Russia’s bid to increase its leverage over Europe’s energy supplies with the Nord Stream pipeline, or China’s gaining access to European investment capital with the recently signed EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investments, some European nations are risking not just their own interests and security, but ours as well.

Donald Trump corrected a lot of these dysfunctions that follow from globalist wishful thinking replacing realist assessments of other nations’ behavior and motives. Joe Biden, on the other hand, is now taking us back to the days of Barack Obama’s dangerous mistakes. And the Republicans? Twenty-seven Republican Senators voted to confirm a veteran of Obama’s malfeasance as Biden’s Secretary of State.

What kind of message does that send to the world? That we’re no worse friend as well as no better enemy.

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Photo credit: Christopher Dilts


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