How Biden Was Supposed to Restore America’s Standing

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President Joe Biden discusses his ‘Build Back Better’ agenda and administration efforts to “lower prescription drug prices” during a speech at the White House, August 12, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Whenever a Democrat comes into office promising to restore our standing in the world and our alliances, it usually means that he will cater more to European opinion than his Republican predecessor.

That was the expectation of Biden, with the added provisos that he could be trusted to say critical things about Vladimir Putin that Trump never did, avoid making statements calling into question our commitment to NATO, and say the typical things U.S. presidents do about human rights and standing by dissidents.

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None of this was a particularly high bar, but that people thought Biden would clear it led many to elevate him into an alleged statesman of the first order.

He is still, we can assume, going to say the conventionally appropriate things about most routine foreign matters. Otherwise, what he’s done in Afghanistan has made a hash of all of this and done more damage than Trump’s outrageousness ever did — he’s angered and alienated European opinion, pleased Putin, undercut NATO in a significant way, and created a humanitarian catastrophe that will make his future defenses of human rights sound tinny.

It’s a debacle, but no one who had a realistic view of Joe Biden going in can say he’s particularly surprised.

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