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"Fixing" US foreign policy isn't the real challenge Biden would face

Josh Rogin's Washington Post op-ed argues that Donald Trump's assault on US foreign policy could take decades to repair. But Rogin gives Trump too much credit and misses the real challenge to American global leadership. Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Jeffrey Wright use The Red Pen to keep the op-ed honest.

Today, we're taking our red pen to an op-ed from the Washington Post written by Josh Rogin, a columnist for the Global Opinions section.

The piece is called "U.S. foreign policy might be too broken for Biden to fix" it. I mean, we could start with the title--which encapsulates just how much we feel Josh overstates the damage done in the past four years and fails to recognize the resilience of US institutions in general.


But let's get specific.

Number one, Rogin writes that President Trump has attacked "the previous bipartisan consensus that the United States has a unique duty to lead a global world order based on the advancement of freedom, human rights and the rule of law."

Hey, Josh—the Iraq War, GITMO, and drone strikes are calling. They want you to know America acted unilaterally long before Trump became President. It's true. President Trump was the first to say "America First" out loud—(I mean, since we tried to stay out of WWII, that is)--but it's far from a new philosophy.

Remember the Iraq War, Guantanamo, and drone strikes? The US has often acted unilaterally.

Number two, on the point of Trump potentially having broken the systems critical to diplomacy, he writes, "It could take decades to repair the institutions Trump intentionally damaged…"

Now sure, Trump gutted the State Department and he's clogged up the World Trade Organization, and this is…a bad thing. Though we'd argue the institutions are resilient and it won't take decades for them to bounce back, if we want to actually rebuild them. While others, so far, he's talked a big game, but hasn't done very much—take NATO, the IMF, the United Nations, even the World Health Organization.

Institutions are resilient. They won't take decades to bounce back.

On Iran, Rogin writes "Biden can't return to the Iran deal but won't be able to strike a new one.

Who says? I mean, I'm not saying a new deal with Iran will be easy (the last one wasn't, and it wasn't exactly comprehensive), but Biden is going to resume negotiations (if he becomes president) and will have broad international support for doing so. Plus, Iran is in far more desperate economic shape now than they were four years ago. They're incented.

Biden is poised to resume negotiations. Won't be easy, but it can be done.

I also think there's a big point about the United States that Rogin's article ignores. The barriers to becoming the world's policeman again aren't just partisanship—or because of Trump's presidency or GOP leadership in Congress. Polls consistently show that Americans are tired of so-called "endless wars" and extensive international engagement. There's also real discontent about US trade policy--which many feel hasn't done much to help everyday Americans.

Joe Biden, should he win on November 3 or later, will face major challenges in restoring global leadership—but they aren't just coming from Republicans or Trump supporters. He would have to overcome domestic political opposition—including from a lot of Democrats—if he wants to set the nation on a different path.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

If you lead a country allied with the US, or you're simply hoping for some specific commitment or clear and credible statement of purpose from the US government, you might feel a little dizzy today. The sight of an American president (Barack Obama) signing his name, of the next president (Donald Trump) erasing that name from the same legislation/bill, and then the following president (Biden) signing it back into law again will raise deep concerns over the long-term reliability of the world's still-most-powerful nation.

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Listen: Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that social media companies bear responsibility for the January 6th pro-Trump riots at the Capitol and will likely be complicit in the civil unrest that may continue well into Biden's presidency. It's no surprise, she argues, that the online rage that platforms like Facebook and Twitter intentionally foment translated into real-life violence. But if Silicon Valley's current role in our national discourse is untenable, how can the US government rein it in? That, it turns out, is a bit more complicated. Swisher joins Ian Bremmer on our podcast.

Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

Biden's first scheduled call with a world leader will be with Canada's Justin Trudeau. What's going on with the Keystone Pipeline?

Well, Biden said that that's it. Executive order, one of the first is that he will stop any construction or development of the Keystone Pipeline. This is of course an oil pipeline that would allow further oil sands oil to come to the United States. The infrastructure is significantly overstretched, it's led to backlogs, inefficiency, accidents, all the rest, but it also facilitates more energy development and keeps prices comparatively down if you get it done. So, there are lots of reasons why the energy sector in Canada wants it. Having said all of that, Trudeau, even though he's been a supporter of Keystone XL, let's keep in mind that he did not win support in Alberta, which is where the big energy patch in Canada is located. This is a real problem for the government of Alberta, Canada is a very decentralized federal government, even more so than the United States. The premier of Alberta is immensely unhappy with Biden right now, they've taken a $1.5 billion equity stake in the project. I expect there will actually be litigation against the United States by the government of Alberta. But Trudeau is quite happy with Biden, his relationship was Trump was always walking on eggshells. The USMCA in negotiations ultimately successful but were very challenging for the Canadians, so too with the way Trump engaged in relations on China. All of this, the fact that Trump left the nuclear agreement with Iran, the Paris Climate Accords, WHO, all of that is stuff that Trudeau strongly opposed. He's going to be much more comfortable with this relationship. He's delighted that the first call from Biden is to him. And it certainly creates a level of normalcy in the US-Canada relationship that is very much appreciated by our neighbors to the North.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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