AMAC Exclusive – By David Lewis Schaefer
President Biden traveled to Hanoi earlier this month in order to sign a trade treaty with the southeast Asian nation – a seemingly easy enough task for the leader of the free world. But during a press conference following the signing, Joe Biden put on full display the growing mental debility that has even nonpartisan observers doubtful of his capacity to serve out the remainder of his present term, let alone undertake a second one.
Biden’s Vietnam trip, where he again kowtowed to communist dictators and embarrassed himself on the world stage, further underscored an alarming truth about U.S. foreign policy today: the current president’s bizarre statements and evident naivete about geopolitical realities aren’t just confusing and frustrating the American people at home, they’re also empowering American adversaries abroad.
Just being in Vietnam inspired Biden to ask if his audience remembered the “famous song ‘Good Morning, Vietnam’” – which was really a film, not a song, and the recollection of which may have created some awkward tension given that the movie chronicled the horrors of the Vietnam War.
Then, Biden once again used a phrase he had employed to silence a questioner during his 2020 campaign, whom he had called a “dog-faced pony soldier,” this time attributing the phrase to a John Wayne movie (which nobody has been able to verify).
At the press conference, Biden’s incoherence compelled press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre to abruptly end the proceedings, arranging to turn off the president’s microphone while his staff started playing a jazz recording to drown him out. (His final remarks, for what it’s worth, were an announcement that he was going to bed.)
The next day, continuing his career-long practice of misrepresenting his past, Biden claimed, on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, that he remembers having stood at Ground Zero on the day after the tragedy – when he had actually been in Washington, not New York.
It would be bad enough if Biden’s Vietnam trip was just embarrassing. But the president took things one step further by evincing an almost laughable lack of understanding about diplomatic realities – a failure that falls on Biden’s staff as much as Biden himself.
Biden’s trip to Vietnam – still a communist dictatorship – was widely reported as an endeavor to “contain” China’s expansionary ambitions in East Asia. But Biden rejected that claim outright.
Instead, Biden explained, he was only concerned with ensuring that “the international rules of the road are abided by” – rules supposedly governing “everything from airspace [to] space in the ocean” – along with, presumably, everything in between. He even went so far as to excuse Chinese President Xi Jinping for any violations of those rules by Beijing, alluding to unspecified “difficulties” the dictator was ostensibly having. (Presumably, he was referring to China’s recent economic difficulties.)
According to the New York Times, Biden agreeing to a “new strategic relationship with Vietnam” was a way of “countering” China’s growing influence that exhibited his “pragmatic” approach to foreign policy. In doing so, Biden disregarded the Communist regime’s repression, to which he devoted only “a couple of boilerplate sentences.”
But is Biden’s stated goal – that is, getting China to abide by the “international rules of the road” – even realistic?
There are certainly generally accepted “rules” of international conduct that are followed because they usually serve nations’ mutual interests. One such rule, for instance, is the principle of freedom of the seas.
But such rules no longer apply when one nation finds it advantageous to ignore or violate them – as China has been doing by fortifying artificial “islands” in the South China Sea and intruding on Taiwan’s air space, with an evident view to invade and conquer that country, which it regards as a renegade “province.”
Meanwhile, as the Times has reported, the Chinese are now using artificial intelligence to “spread lies” about the cause of the wildfires that swept across the Hawaiian island of Maui in August – using doctored photographs to make it appear that the fires resulted not from natural causes but from a secret “weather weapon.”
These are only two recent examples suggesting that Xi doesn’t share Biden’s regard for any set of rules governing China’s actions vis-à-vis other nations.
There is something concerningly utopian about Biden’s professed belief in the existence of rules restraining international behavior, violations of which can be checked merely by announcing the existence of a new “strategic partnership” with a communist “ally” like Vietnam.
The futility of expecting America’s adversaries to follow the accepted “rules of the road” has also been on display at the United Nations, where, as the Wall Street Journal reports, Russia is making a mockery of the U.N. Security Council.
As the United States and its allies look to bring discussion of the Ukraine invasion and the horrendous violations of the laws of war currently being committed by the Putin regime in Ukraine to the fore, Russia, taking advantage of a longstanding rule that allows any of the Council’s five permanent members to invite anyone they choose to speak, has brought in aging rock star Roger Waters, co-founder of the group Pink Floyd, to testify that the war in Ukraine was the fault of the West, which antagonized Russia, and then prolonged the war by sending the Ukrainian government weapons with which to defend its nation.
Russia also invited Columbia professor Jeffrey Sachs, the author of ruinous advice on privatizing the Russian economy following the fall of Communism, who now wants the Council to investigate the attacks on the Nord Stream gas pipeline linking Russia to Germany as an “act of international terrorism.” (Apparently, Russian terror in Ukraine doesn’t bother him so much, if at all.) Russia even invited an 84-year-old former U.S. intelligence official, clearly past his prime, to speak on the subject. (He pantomimed machine-gun fire and began singing at the table.)
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., remarked that such behavior “shows the extent to which the Russians go to undermine the Security Council.” These actions would not have surprised such insightful and outspoken U.S. ambassadors to the U.N. as Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and Nikki Haley, who never expected Russia, China, or any other U.S. adversary to adhere to an “acceptable” standard of behavior. Are they really a surprise to the Biden administration?
Belief in the efficacy of Security Council deliberations, “partnerships” with Communist dictatorships, and admonitions for renegade regimes to conform to “the rules of the road” all evince the hopeless naivete or downright foolishness of the Biden administration’s approach to foreign affairs.
An effective response to the growing threat of Russian and Chinese aggression would call for beefing up our armed forces, including our depleted navy; serious work on an effective anti-ballistic missile program, which would defend our allies as well as our homeland; an upgraded Voice of America and other internet programs aimed at bringing the truth to the subjects of Communist despots, using artificial intelligence at least as up-to-date as China’s; and supplying Ukraine with the full complement of arms it needs to defeat the Russian invasion.
The question is, who will bring these truths home to the increasingly feeble Biden and his staff?
David Lewis Schaefer is a Professor of Political Science, Emeritus, at College of the Holy Cross.