Former Vice President Joe Biden laid out an extensive foreign policy vision meant to counter President Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda during a speech in New York City on Thursday.
Biden, who has been criticized by former Obama administration colleagues for being on the “wrong” side of most international issues, began his remarks by noting that American policies at home and abroad are “deeply” intertwined.
“In 2019, foreign policy is domestic policy, in my view, and domestic policy is foreign policy. They’re deeply connected,” the 76-year-old Democrat frontrunner said. “A deeply connected set of choices we make about how to advance the American way of life and our vision for the future.”
Arguing that Trump’s “Twitter tantrums” and “embrace of dictators” had ruined America’s standing in the eyes of other nations, Biden said his first actions as president would focus on strengthening democracy. To that end, Biden said his administration would remake the U.S. education system, expand the Voting Rights Act, reform the criminal justice system, and implement more transparent campaign finance laws.
“We have to prove to the world the United States is prepared to lead, not just by the example of our power but by the power of our example,” he said.
Biden further pledged to improve America’s moral leadership by relaxing immigration and asylum laws, protecting illegal aliens already in the country, and reversing policies that prevent tax dollars from going to abortion providers overseas .
“The challenge of following this disastrous presidency will not be just to restore the reputation of our credibility,” Biden said. “It will be to enact a forward-looking foreign policy for the world as we find it today and as we anticipate it will be tomorrow and years to come.”
The centerpiece of that “forward-looking global” agenda, according to the former vice president, would be renewed cooperation with other nations to tackle “dangers” like climate change, nuclear proliferation, cyber warfare, and terrorism.
“American security, prosperity, and our way of life requires the strongest possible network of partners and alliances working alongside one another,” Biden said. “Donald Trump’s brand of ‘America First’ has too often led to America alone.”
If elected, Biden promised to organize and host a “global summit for democracy” to renew “the spirit and shared purpose of the nations of the free world.” The summit’s goal would be to push countries to fight corruption, advance human rights, and fight back against authoritarianism, nationalism, and ill-liberal tendencies.
“We have to be honest about our friends that are falling short and forge a common agenda to address the greatest threats to our shared values,” Biden said, before outlining the private sector’s role.
“We’ll challenge the private sector, including the tech companies and social media giants, to make their own commitments,” he said. “I believe they have a duty to make sure their algorithm and platforms are not misused to sew division here at home or empower their surveillance states to be able to facility their oppression and censorship in China or elsewhere.”
Despite the lofty promises, the majority of Biden’s speech was dedicated to repudiating Trump’s “America First Agenda,” which emphasizes national sovereignty and the American worker over global interests.
“The world is not organized itself,” the former vice president said. “If we do not shape the norms and institutions that govern relations among nations, rest assured that some nation will step into the vacuum, or no one will, and chaos will prevail.”
In order to have a foreign policy that placed the “America back at the head of the table working” with allies and other nations, Biden urged the country to recognize that working in tandem across national boundaries was unavoidable.
“Let me be clear, working cooperatively with other nations to share our values and goals doesn’t make America as it seems to imply in this administration, suckers,” he said. “It makes us more secure. Enables us to be more successful… No country, even one as powerful as ours, can go alone in the challenge of the 21st century.
“I respect no borders and cannot be contained by any walls,” Biden added, taking a shot at Trump’s efforts to reassert control over the U.S.-Mexico border.
With that in mind, the former vice president committed to leading “an effort to reimagine” America’s global priorities. At the top of his list was preventing nuclear proliferation, which Biden hoped to accomplish by rejoining the Iran Nuclear Deal and extending the New START Treaty between the U.S. and Russia. Both are Obama-era initiatives widely interpreted to have been negotiated to the detriment of U.S. interests.
The Iran Deal, which Trump abandoned soon after taking office, would have removed sanctions and given the country millions in financial relief in exchange for little oversight on their commitment to shutter their nuclear arsenal. Likewise, the New START Treaty, which is still in effect until 2021, has been criticized by Trump for allowing Russia to violate its parameters.
Apart from reentering the nuclear deal, Biden signaled he would further take pressure off Iran by ending U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. The conflict has been brewing since 2014, when Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, attempted to overthrow the Yemeni government. Saudi Arabia, seeking to counter Iran’s influence in the Middle East, interceded to defend Yemen through aerial bombardment. Although the bombing likely staved off the collapse of the Yemeni government, it has been blamed for civilian causalities. There is also debate in Congress as to whether America’s support for the Saudis requires military authorization.
The former vice president also lambasted one of Trump’s major political accomplishments in opening communication with North Korea. Even though Biden initially criticized Trump for having fallen “in love with a murderous dictator in North Korea,” he nevertheless suggested his administration would do a better job of convincing the country to denuclearize by teaming up with China.
“I will empower our negotiators to jumpstart a sustained coordinated campaign with our allies and others including China to advance our shared objective,” he said. “It is a shared objective.”
The one issue Biden appeared to agree with Trump on was scaling down America’s involvement in the Middle East.
“It’s long past time we end the forever wars which have cost us untold blood and treasure,” the former vice president said. “I have long-argued that we should bring home the vast majority of our combat troops from the wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East and narrowly focus on our mission to deal with Al-Qaeda and ISIS in the region.”
Biden, however, failed to mention that he had championed both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, even applauding President George W. Bush in 2002 for having chosen a “course of moderation and deliberation.”