The following is the tenth installment in a series of undetermined duration and frequency about life in America after Trump (A.T.).
At this point we know the Trump administration will end and Joe Biden will be president as of the afternoon of January 20th. Whether he will directly take over from Trump or there will be a brief Pence administration as part of Pardonpalooza is an unknown. In any event Biden’s plate will be overflowing and one of the pressing matters will be rejoining the world community as a leader. Today I’d like to explore six related challenges.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is the backbone of American post-World War II foreign policy. Trump did almost everything he could to disrespect it during his term. Our most important allies, with good cause, are unsure of America’s commitment to mutual defense. One of the core principles of NATO is that an attack on one is an attack on all calling for mutual defense. That is the essence of Article Five of the NATO Pact. Interestingly Article Five has only been invoked one time in NATO’s history; in the aftermath of 9/11 when the other NATO members came to America’s defense.
Biden will have to convince the other members that under him America is back to stay and that Trump was a fluke. It won’t be easy.
I’m a pro-Obama guy and I’m very well aware of the fact that Biden was Obama’s Vice President. One of Obama’s few failures/shortcomings was that he was not a great salesman. He failed to sell much of the American public including many of his supporters (and that includes me) on TPP – the Trans Pacific Partnership. I was afraid of job losses (and I was far from alone) and therefore did not support Obama on that deal. Almost as soon as Trump took office he made a big deal of in his words taking us out of the deal. The reality is that we were never in the deal but Trump has never been a stickler for facts or accuracy.
Not getting into the deal turned out to be a mistake and one we will pay the price of for decades. Asia is simply too large a market to ignore and will only grow into a larger consumer market in the coming decades. Countries like India and Vietnam have emerging middle classes that have a seemingly insatiable demand for consumer goods and services many of which are American or require American technology and/or expertise.
The TPP ship has sailed – with China steering it – but many more opportunities will present themselves in the coming years and we need to be the driving force in as many as possible.
The WHO (and not the rock band)
No organization or entity is perfect. (America’s stated goal is a more perfect union.) The World Health Organization is no exception. Isolationism, regardless of how attractive it looks at first glance, is not a winning strategy. Under Trump we did all we could do to distance ourselves from the WHO and disrespect it. That has to change and very quickly!
The pandemic has been a great illustration of how we are all in this together. While America has felt the greatest impact (in all likelihood due to mismanagement on the part of the Trump administration) the pandemic is worldwide.
Perhaps the poster child for imperfect organizations is the United Nations. A forum, albeit an imperfect one, is exponentially better than no forum at all. Instead of lecturing the members and lying to them to the point of being laughed at perhaps reengaging would be a better strategy.
Paris Climate Accord
Perhaps no isolationist move under the Trump administration was more idiotic than exiting the Paris Climate Accord. While it is imperfect and inadequate it was important because it marked the first time the world came together to address the challenge of climate change.
We need to re-enter it Day One of the Biden administration and fortunately we will be accepted back with open arms. Then we need to lead the effort for a new agreement that will be even stronger. You can’t lead when you refuse to participate. I’m glad to see that Biden put John Kerry in charge of this and related efforts and that he structured the appointment in such a way that it is not subject to Senate confirmation.
Iran Nuclear Deal
There is a never ending philosophical debate among baseball people as to the virtue of a bad throw versus no throw at all. That doesn’t directly relate here but it frames part of the argument. The Iran Nuclear Deal was far from perfect but it would have kept Iran from developing a nuclear weapon for at least 15 years. In unilaterally walking away from it Trump sped up the process of Iran becoming a nuclear power and in doing so stabbed several of our most important allies in the back.
We need to get back into the deal and that in my mind is impossible. The next best thing is to negotiate a new deal. Iran will not be anxious to let us back in and we will have to make distasteful concessions to negotiate a replacement deal. I’m sure Iran and our European allies will be reluctant to accept our word worrying that if the American people elect another nutcase in the near future the agreement won’t be worth the paper it is written on.
As of this writing Ambassador Wendy Sherman has neither been named nor nominated to a post in the Biden administration nor is she rumored for one. There is a silver lining in that cloud in that she is the optimal person for this assignment. It won’t be easy but if any living American can get it done it is Wendy Sherman.
Well, there are six challenges for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris not counting a pandemic, sinking economy and a plethora of social issues. One thing the Biden administration won’t be is bored.
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