When President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January, some of the first big changes he makes will come on foreign policy, a domain where a president can act without asking permission from Congress.

Biden has promised quick actions to show, in his words, that “America is back” — meaning the pre- Donald Trump America that treated long-standing allies like friends instead of adversaries.

On Biden’s first day in office, he says he will: rejoin the Paris agreement on climate change; offer to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran if Tehran returns to compliance; reaffirm the U.S. military commitment to NATO; rejoin the World Health Organization; and work with other countries to fight the COVID-19 pandemic — all abrupt reversals of Trump’s “America first” unilateralism.

At first glance, it will look like a straightforward return to the multilateralist agenda of President Obama, for whom Biden served as vice president. Even some of the people in top jobs will be the same, veterans of the Obama administration like their boss.

But that first impression will be deceiving. On several issues, Biden and his aides have staked out positions that chart a markedly different course from that of the administration they worked in four years ago.

Once a champion of free trade agreements, Biden has embraced his party’s new skepticism in international economic policy — one area where there will be at least superficial continuity from the Trump years.

China, the ever-rising power in Asia, will get tougher treatment than it did under Obama on both trade and human rights; Biden has called Chinese President Xi Jinping “a thug.”

Saudi Arabia, long a close U.S. ally, will get arm’s-length treatment, too; the president-elect has called the repressive kingdom a “pariah” state.

And Biden will continue winding down the “forever wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan, reducing U.S. troop deployments in the Middle East to small-scale counter-terrorism missions. One reason for those departures from the Obama legacy is obvious: The world has changed.

“A Biden administration (will) engage the world not as it was in 2009 or even 2017, when we left office, but as it is,” Antony Blinken, the president-elect’s chief foreign policy advisor, told Axios last month.

American diplomatic power and prestige have eroded — thanks not only to Trump’s bull-in-a-china-shop approach to international relations but also because of the U.S. inability to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying recession.

After four years of Trump’s unilateralism, longtime U.S. allies in Europe and Asia have questioned whether they can trust any American government to look out for their interests again. Attitudes within the Democratic Party have evolved, too. Democrats are not only more skeptical on trade agreements; they’re also less forgiving toward China and more allergic to military commitments.

Even within the Biden camp, there’s debate between those Democrats who think only modest adjustments of the Obama model are in order and others who have called for a deeper reexamination of the party’s foreign policy tenets.

Thomas Wright, a scholar at the Brookings Institution, calls one school the “restorationists,” the other “reformationists” or “2021 Democrats.”

The restorationists, he says, want to bring back as much of the pre-2016 world as possible: a global leadership role for the United States built around vigorous multilateral diplomacy and support for economic globalization.

A leading example of the restorationists is Blinken, the longtime Biden aide whom many expect to be named as the new president’s national security advisor.

The reformationist 2021 Democrats, by contrast, say strengthening the domestic economy must come first. They argue that foreign policy needs a deeper rethink in order to focus more on strengthening the middle class.

A prominent example: Jake Sullivan, another Biden advisor who is expected to get a top White House job. The central goal of trade policy, he says, should be “growing jobs and wages.”

“Does allowing J.P. Morgan or Goldman Sachs to have a greater foothold in the Chinese financial system help American GDP, American jobs, American wages?” Sullivan asked last year. “If the answer is no, then why is that a negotiating priority of the United States?”

These aren’t head-on policy collisions, but they are differences in priorities.

Both schools espouse the fundamental tenets of Bidenism: American leadership, restoration of alliances and plenty of attention to the domestic economy.

But their differences could create friction as soon as the new administration begins making real choices — for example, deciding how hard to press Beijing for concessions on trade while also asking for its help on climate change.

The Biden administration won’t be as chaotic as Trump’s four-year brawl. The new president isn’t likely to upend policies at whim or fire Cabinet secretaries on Twitter.

But neither will it be as placid as might have been expected from a centrist president who’s been in Washington almost half a century. If only because of the relentless pace of change in the world outside, the Biden presidency might just produce an overdue rethinking of Democratic foreign policy.

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(9) comments

IslandDeb

Who the heck is Typhoid Donnie?

BigBob

Oh, I am sorry. I explained this weeks ago, but obviously you were unable to read at time. Typhoid Donnie is a rip-off from Typhoid Mary (Mallon) the spreader who was solely responsible for the infections of many people during the typhoid epidemic of the late 1800s. Since Typhoid Donnie has been solely responsible for the trump virus that has, so far, killed over a quarter-of-a-million American men, women and children I felt the Label "Typhoid Donnie" was quite appropriate. If you would like me to change it to COVID DONNIE just let me know.

IslandDeb

Oh, I am sorry too. It was explained months ago that the virus came from China, enemy of America, not President Trump. Name calling is never appropriate. I think you may have had something to do with bringing the virus here. Typhoid Bob has a nice ring to it.

BigBob

Oh, I swear, you conservative/fascists who worship Typhoid Donnie are so pathetic. And if you want to believe I had something to do with bringing the virus here you go for it. I just hope you never have to make that statement in court, perjury is a b***h! Now as to why Typhoid Donnie is responsible for the trump virus that has, so far, killed over a quarter-of-a-million American men, women and children here you go -

1. He shut down the Global Health Security and Bio-defense agency.

2. He fired Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossart in 2018, whose job was to coordinate a response to global pandemics. He was not replaced.

3. In 2018 Dr. Luciana Borio, the NSC director for medical and bio-defense preparedness left the job and was not replaced.

4. In 2018, at the direction of trump, the CDC stopped funding epidemic prevention activities in 39 countries, including CHINA.

5. The NSC’s Senior Director for Global Health Security and biodefense, Tim Ziemer, left the position on May 8, 2018 and was not replaced. The departure occurred the same day that the WHO announced a new Ebola outbreak in Africa.

6. In June 2019, the trump administration discontinued the CDC medical epidemiologist position that was embedded in China – That person left China in July, a few months before the coronavirus hit China. The position’s purpose was to DETECT disease outbreaks IN CHINA.

7. Amid the worldwide outbreak a 19% cut to the budget of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, a 10% cut to Public Health Services, and a 7% cut to Global Health Services, the organizations that respond to public health threats were all engineered by, yep, trump.

8. One of the more brilliant ides from trump was ingesting disinfectants as a potential “cure.”

9. He chose Mike Pence, not a doctor, to oversee the US pandemic response.

10. Trump sowed doubt about the severity of the virus, using the word HOAX at events and rallies, even doing so at events where the virus was spread.

11. In yet another brilliant move trump declined to use the WHO’s test. In January, within a week of finding out about China’s mysterious virus, Berlin virologists produced the first diagnostic test. By February, the WHO shipped the tests to 60 countries. Trump declined taking any WHO tests even as a temporary bridge.

12. Trump pretended the virus had been contained many, many times. You’ve seen his quotes.

13. On January 31 he imposed travel restrictions on China. Nevertheless, he continued to allow China flights with over 40,000 people coming in. The US did NOT test anyone arriving from 14 Trump stopped distribution of useful information concerning the pandemic many times. He halted CDC guideline release as states began to open, later allowing release of watered-down guidelines on May 20, long after many states reopened. Church reopening guidelines were deleted. Within 48 hours of the release, he demanded that churches be opened immediately.

15. On March 19, trump said: “Nobody knew there would be a pandemic or epidemic of this proportion.” Daily intelligence briefings, internal memos, and warnings from past Presidents offer evidence this was NOT true.

16. On March 20 with a straight face trump tells America: “I don’t take responsibility at all.”

19. On April 21, trump removes the nation’s top vaccine expert, Dr. Rick Bright, as head of the CDC’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. The removal is retribution for Dr. Bright challenging the trump’s pseudo-science claims, particularly his unwillingness to support trump’s rabid endorsement of an unproven drug.

20. Trump relentlessly searches for scapegoats – he has blamed the CDC, China, Obama, the WHO, “flawed” studies, the Democrats, Pelosi, governors, and he continues to seek out new scapegoats and distractions to deflect.

Had the fool not lied to the American people and actually done something we might have saved thousands upon thousands of lives.

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BigBob

Oh, my, as usual you have no idea what a communist is, let alone the Communist Manifesto.When it comes to being tools no one can beat the conservative/fascist members of Typhoid Donnie's Moron Brigade who buy into ever lie he tells, actually believe he defeated President Elect Biden and most amazing of all, STILL SEND HIM MONEY! What a bunch of suckers.

simon1dog

Biden won't take office in January.

BigBob

Are you again threatening the President Elect of the United States? Just to make certain I have contacted the Secret Service again to insure the safety of the incoming president.

Vince Gors

Who is going to pay for the "Remote" White House" in boyden's basement? oblama is boyden's Idol.[sad]

BigBob

Honestly, can we ever expect you to post something that makes even a modicum of sense? President Elect Biden has been very busy since the election that made him our next president. On the other hand Typhoid Donnie has been mostly in hiding and tweeting like an insane person or letting Rudy talk for him - an amazing demonstration of a an idiot speaking for a moron. And who the hell is "oblama?"

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