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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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Swisher, who hosts the New York Times podcast Sway, joins Ian Bremmer for the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on public television nationwide beginning this Friday, January 22th. Check local listings.

Now that Joe Biden is officially US president, leaders from around the world would like a word with him — but where will he make his first international trip?

After a tumultuous four years, many countries are now clamoring for a face-to-face with President Biden. That includes allies who felt abandoned by Trump's "America First" presidency, as well as adversaries with thorny issues on the agenda. We check in on who's pitching him hardest on a near-term state visit.

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Brexit pettiness lingers: Here we were naively thinking the Brexit shenanigans were over after the EU and UK agreed to an eleventh-hour post-Brexit trade deal last month. We were wrong — the saga continues. Now, a new row has erupted after the Johnson government said it will not give the EU ambassador in London the same diplomatic status awarded to other representatives of nation states. Unsurprisingly, this announcement peeved Brussels, whose delegates enjoy full diplomatic status in at least 142 other countries. The UK says it will give the EU envoy the same privileges as those given to international organizations, which are subject to change and do not include immunity from detention and taxation given to diplomats under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations. EU members are furious, with officials accusing London of simply trying to flex its muscles and engaging in "petty" behavior. The two sides will discuss the matter further when European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson meet next week, their first face-to-face since the two sides settled the Brexit quagmire on December 31. Alas, the Brexit nightmare continues.

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