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How Joe Biden Brought the World to the Brink: A Strategic Assessment

The European Conservative – At home, Biden is unpopular, assailed by legal difficulties, and widely regarded as too physically and mentally incompetent to do his job.

“I have been doing this for a long time. I never thought that I would see, have confirmed pictures of terrorists beheading children,” said a nonplussed U.S. President Joe Biden of reports from the horrific Hamas attacks on Israel. Spokesmen later clarified that Biden had not seen the pictures in question, but numerous media outlets have confirmed these atrocities and, in some cases, reprinted the photos.

At best, Biden sounded naïve, particularly in the wider context of his administration’s catastrophic foreign policy. In many ways, it was his poor leadership in this area that allowed the current crisis to unfold.

By way of overview, it is instructive to go back to the chaotic first months after Biden entered office. After several steps that appeared to continue former President Donald J. Trump’s policies, and alongside a strong bipartisan emphasis on containing China, Biden abruptly accelerated the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Pro-Biden military and foreign policy leaders, who called themselves “the adults in the room,” assured the new president that Afghanistan’s government and U.S.-equipped military could hold their own against the Taliban. Without much effort to verify those assurances, Biden announced the U.S. military withdrawal before the Afghans were prepared to resist on their own, and indeed even before the U.S. civilian withdrawal.

In the chaos that followed, desperate Afghans crowded into and around the U.S.-held airport in Kabul, hoping for rescue. Some made it out, but many others died trying or were simply abandoned, often to brutal fates as the Taliban took retribution on Afghans who had worked for the Americans. Thirteen U.S. Marines were killed while holding positions. Deserted by their government, hundreds of U.S. citizens went underground or improvised their own exits. Worst of all, the Afghan army folded in a matter of days, leaving an estimated $85 billion worth of top-line U.S. conventional military equipment to the Taliban and whatever terrorist groups might have purchased the weapons since or may do so in the future.

As breathtakingly bad as the Afghan fiasco was, American voters, who rate foreign policy low among their priorities, quickly forgot about it while the regime media repeated the mantra that withdrawal, while inelegant, was nevertheless necessary.

The rest of the world drew a radically different conclusion: that Biden’s resolve was far weaker than Trump’s, who had stabilized Afghanistan without a single loss of American life in the final 18 months of his presidency. Instead, Biden’s approach to foreign policy recalled the leadership of former President Barack Obama, whom Biden served as vice president and whose administration employed much of Biden’s foreign policy team earlier in their careers. Just six months after Afghanistan, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his ill-fated war against Ukraine. Encouraged by the posturing of a weak Biden administration, including even a foolish direct statement by Biden that the United States would not react to counter Russian aggression, Putin had nothing to fear.

While the war has gone badly for Russia, the Kremlin’s strategic calculation that it would encounter no military resistance from the U.S.-led West was an entirely rational assessment of Biden’s failure elsewhere on the Eurasian periphery. It even had a precedent. Putin’s first invasion of Ukraine in 2014, which Obama did nothing to stop, came an identical six months after Obama failed to enforce a much-vaunted “red line” in Syria’s civil conflict, whereby the U.S. president had promised military intervention if Bashar al-Assad’s regime used chemical weapons against domestic insurgents. Obama’s failure to enforce that prohibition informed Putin that he could act without military consequences to seize Crimea and support pro-Russian independence movements in the Donbas.

Instructively, the Trump presidency successfully deterred Moscow by cajoling European NATO members into committing to higher defense spending, withdrawing from Cold War-era arms control deals that no longer served American interests, providing lethal military equipment to Ukraine for the first time, imposing sanctions on Russia to their highest level before the present war, and informing Moscow that further aggression against Ukraine would have catastrophic consequences.

Trump’s tough approach also worked with Iran. Trump wisely abandoned an Obama-era deal that essentially paid Tehran to delay its nuclear program for an estimated decade but not stop it. Trump increased military and diplomatic support for Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other traditional American regional allies that had been or have emerged as Iran’s antagonists. He obliterated ISIS, neutralized Iranian military assets in Iraq, and presided over U.S. energy independence for the first time since the 1940s. In arguably the most underappreciated achievement of his presidency, Trump ignored a longstanding but misguided Washington consensus that tied the resolution of all Middle East questions to a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Via the Abraham Accords, he successfully ignored that issue and brokered the first peace deals between Israel and majority Muslim countries since 1994.

Biden reversed all of these positions. He clamped down on domestic energy production to satisfy radical leftist environmental demands, which inexcusably returned the U.S. economy to dependence on Middle Eastern oil and caused energy prices and inflation to spike in an anemic post-COVID economy. He antagonized regional American allies by predicating arms and investment deals on unrealistic human rights demands and other intangibles, thereby driving them into the arms of Russia and China, which proclaimed themselves “unlimited” allies, included Iran in a de facto tripartite anti-American alliance, and steadily lured dozens of developing world economies into their orbit.

At home, Biden is unpopular, assailed by legal difficulties, widely regarded as too physically and mentally incompetent to do his job, and likely to lose reelection—probably to a resurgent Trump—in 2024. He presides over a southern border that is largely out of government control as millions of foreign citizens unlawfully enter the United States, undermining confidence and straining resources. This both contributes to and is a symptom of a bitterly polarized society in which Biden’s side of the divide advocates Marxist-inspired dogma that most of the rest of the world finds baffling, bemusing, and emasculating and that his domestic opponents regard as either stupidity or treason.

Declining American resolve has emboldened Chinese aggression in the Far East, removed any deterring effects from regional conflicts flaring in places that were until recently stable, and caused European allies to entertain moving to a middle place in an emerging global conflict. International institutions that were founded to manage or lessen global conflict have become less and less effective without firm American leadership, and most seem doomed to irrelevance at best and active resistance at worst.

Worst of all, Biden restored the bad nuclear deal with Iran, thereby emboldening Tehran to delay but not cancel its nuclear weapons program, increase its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, cultivate a similar patron-client relationship with Hamas in Gaza, and support other anti-American governments and movements in the Arabian Peninsula, Africa, and even Latin America.

Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as intelligence sources cited by the U.S. media, all corroborate that Iran played an essential role in the planning and execution of the recent attacks on Israel, which killed over 1,200 people and injured thousands more. Iran’s parliament leapt to its feet to chant “Death to America” (not just Israel) when news of the attack came their way.

Just last month, the U.S. released $6 billion in Iranian assets to secure the release of only five prisoners held by Iran. When the war in Gaza broke out several weeks later, the embarrassed Biden administration went into high-energy damage control, arguing that the funds are only for humanitarian use and that they have not been and cannot be used for other purposes. This did not match Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s claim that he would use the money however he pleases. Nor does it account for Iran’s knowing full well that if $6 billion is restored to its control, that money is fungible and could be used for agreed-upon needs while freeing up other funds for military and terrorist purposes.

As of Friday, reports confirmed that U.S. pressure caused the Central Bank of Qatar, which had agreed to monitor the released funds, to rescind Iran’s access to them. The damage, however, is done. Under Biden, and unfortunately for the people of Israel, real and perceived American weakness has led to outrage after outrage, invasion after invasion, and problem after problem. A firmer president can and will take over one day. A stronger defense of American interests—at home and abroad—could undo Biden’s failed legacy. But that next president will need iron resolve to clean up his mess.

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