Every President tires to set a tone for their Administration in the first weeks in office. President Biden is no different. In the second installment of the series, we examine the dramatic shifts Biden has already made in his first month in office, and what that shows about where he wants to go.
Most notable in Biden’s foreign policy direction so far, is the dramatic change as it relates to Russia and China, two dictatorships that are competitors, if not enemies, of the United States. Some examples will serve to illustrate the change in world view. Additionally, after three Arab nations signed peace agreements with Israel in the eight months, yet Biden is reversing direction in the Middle East, as well.
According to President Biden himself, he told Chinese President Xi he would speak out against Chinese human rights abuses but only because he was expected to do as the American President. In last week’s town hall, broadcast by CNN, Biden played down Chinese aggressions and atrocities saying the Chinese had ‘different norms’. He then said that he told Xi that he would speak out against the atrocities and genocide of the Uighur minority and the crackdown in Hong Kong because that was the ‘American norm’
“I point out to him no American president can be sustained as a president, if he doesn’t reflect the values of the United States,” the US president continued. “And so the idea that I am not going to speak out against what he’s doing in Hong Kong, what he’s doing with the Uighurs in western mountains of China and Taiwan — trying to end the one China policy by making it forceful … [Xi] gets it.” In other words, he told Chinese President and head of the Communist Party Xi that he would be speaking out because that’s what American Presidents have to do. But just to understand that is why Biden is doing it. Not because there are certain universal human rights.
If you think that is a dramatic overreaction to Biden’s town hall remarks, then consider his other, related foreign policy actions in his first month in office.
Changing US policy, he has announced the US will start funding of and rejoin the UN Human Rights Council, the United Nations body supposedly tasked with monitoring human rights across the globe. Current membership on the Human Rights Council include China, which has forcibly relocated hundreds of thousands of Uighurs to work and ‘re-education’ camps, and Russia, who within the last week sentenced a political opponent of Russian President Putin to a penal camp after he survived an attempt to kill him by poison. And just last week, the Council invited Venezuela to speak to a session of its members…because, apparently, we can learn a lot about human rights from Venezuela.
The Biden Administration has also announced that it will restore funding to the United Nations Relief & Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. The United States had cut funding because the educational materials previously produced by the Agency extolled the virtues of jihad and violence against Israel. The Agency says they have been working to change, yet a review released this month shows ‘study cards’ for elementary and middle school children that show a map of the Middle East with no Israel, a passage that says that peace negotiations and agreements “only serve to weaken the resolve of Palestinians.” Other lesson plans teach—again, elementary and middle school children—that “jihad is the road of glory” and that press 6th-grade girls to “make preparations for jihad”. A 9th grade lesson teaches spelling by including the term ’pieces of corpses’ and references a text with graphic descriptions of bodies strewn about city streets.
Unfortunately, the reality of the world is that not every nation has the same values that we have and, at times, we have to deal with countries led by governments that don’t have our concern for basic human rights. However, when those countries also raise the abuse of basic human rights to the level of genocide, such as China has done with the Uighurs, and when these abuses are also done by countries that are expansionist and are trying to expand their abuses to other nations around them, then that is a whole other issue indeed. Biden’s foreign policy reversals portend a concerning future where US foreign policy is less focused on protecting American interests and more on ignoring abuses by our international enemies and funding international organizations that work against American interests. President Biden clearly wants to improve relations with some countries but doing so at the expense of American interests does no good. And, frankly, we should be perfectly fine with NOT having good relations with some.