Viewpoint: President lays out Biden Doctrine in U.N. address

Viewpoint: President lays out Biden Doctrine in U.N. address
Karen Rubin, Columnist

USA is baaack! President Joe Biden, in his first speech as president to the United Nations General Assembly, laid out a version of Build Back Better Global Edition, saying the planet – the human race – is at an inflection point with challenges that disregard borders – COVID-19, climate crises, cybersecurity, terrorism – that can only be solved through collective, cooperative action. He pledged the USA will lead the world “toward a more peaceful, prosperous future for all people.”

In the clearest, broadest declaration of his foreign policy – and in sharp contrast to Trump’s nationalistic, isolationist America First transactional foreign policy, Biden said, “Instead of continuing to fight the wars of the past, we are fixing our eyes on devoting our resources to the challenges that hold the keys to our collective future: ending this pandemic; addressing the climate crisis; managing the shifts in global power dynamics; shaping the rules of the world on vital issues like trade, cyber, and emerging technologies; and facing the threat of terrorism as it stands today.

“We’ve ended 20 years of conflict in Afghanistan. And as we close this period of relentless war, we’re opening a new era of relentless diplomacy; of using the power of our development aid to invest in new ways of lifting people up around the world; of renewing and defending democracy; of proving that no matter how challenging or how complex the problems we’re going to face, government by and for the people is still the best way to deliver for all of our people.”

You can call this the Biden Doctrine.

“Our security, our prosperity, and our very freedoms are interconnected, in my view, as never before. And so, I believe we must work together as never before,” he declared.

Biden reaffirmed, revitalized and reassured the U.S. alliances that Trump undermined – NATO and the Article 5 commitment, the European Union, ASEAN, African Union, and Organization of American States — while rejoining international forums, especially the United Nations, World Health Organization, Paris Climate Agreement. He said the United States will run to reclaim its seat on the UN’s Human Rights Council and work to recreate the Iran nuclear deal.

Leaving no doubt the U.S. will forcefully defend itself against external and internal threats, he said, “military power must be our tool of last resort, not our first, and it should not be used as an answer to every problem we see around the world. Indeed, today many of our greatest concerns cannot be solved or even addressed through the force of arms. Bombs and bullets cannot defend against COVID-19 or its future variants.”

Biden offered his version of “Build Back Better World” to address the malaise contributing to the rise of autocracies and violence.

“Done the right way, with transparent, sustainable investment in projects that respond to the countries’ needs and engage their local workers to maintain high labor and environmental standards, infrastructure can be a strong foundation that allows societies in low- and middle-income countries to grow and to prosper.

“That’s the idea behind the Build Back Better World,” he said, noting that the U.S. along with 67 partners is mobilizing hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure investment, on top of the humanitarian assistance the U.S. provides (pointedly, with no strings attached, a rebuke to Trump’s criteria for foreign aid).

Without mentioning China or Russia, he emphasized that nations can compete, without conflict.

“We’ll stand up for our allies and our friends and oppose attempts by stronger countries to dominate weaker ones, whether through changes to territory by force, economic coercion, technological exploitation or disinformation. But we’re not seeking — I’ll say it again — we are not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocs.”

He waded into specific clashes, for example, reaffirming U.S. policy favoring a two-state solution to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict.

“I continue to believe that a two-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish, democratic state living in peace alongside a viable, sovereign, and democratic Palestinian state. We’re a long way from that goal at this moment, but we must never allow ourselves to give up on the possibility of progress.”

But he laid out the essential criteria: “As we pursue diplomacy across the board, the United States will champion the democratic values that go to the very heart of who we are as a nation and a people: freedom, equality, opportunity, and a belief in the universal rights of all people. It’s stamped into our DNA as a nation. And critically, it’s stamped into the DNA of this institution — the United Nations. We sometimes forget.”

This includes advocating for women’s rights – specifically calling out Afghanistan – condemning the targeting and oppression of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, and the rights of LGBTQI individuals.

“Now we must again come together to affirm the inherent humanity that unites us is much greater than any outward divisions or disagreements.”

Addressing the rise of autocracies, he said, “The future will belong to those who give their people the ability to breathe free, not those who seek to suffocate their people with an iron hand,” he said.

“The truth is: The democratic world is everywhere. It lives in the anti-corruption activists, the human rights defenders, the journalists, the peace protesters on the frontlines of this struggle in Belarus, Burma, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela, and everywhere in between…

“And while no democracy is perfect, including the United States — who will continue to struggle to live up to the highest ideals to heal our divisions and face down violence and insurrection — democracy remains the best tool we have to unleash our full human potential.”

Shrugging off the damage to his reputation because of the Afghanistan withdrawal and its deal to sell nuclear submarines to Australia that upset France, Biden reasserted United States’ leadership toward the ultimate, grander end.

“We will lead together with our Allies and partners and in cooperation with all those who believe, as we do, that this is within our power to meet these challenges, to build a future that lifts all of our people and preserves this planet.

“But none of this is inevitable; it’s a choice. And I can tell you where America stands: We will choose to build a better future. We — you and I –- we have the will and capacity to make it better. Ladies and gentlemen, we cannot afford to waste any more time. Let’s get to work. Let’s make our better future now.”

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