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Biden needs to reset foreign policy goals after midterm outcome

joe biden
(File photo: Jordan News)
joe biden

Osama Al Sharif

The writer is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.

At the end of day, there was no red wave sweeping the polls in the US midterm elections. Against odds and almost all polls, the Democrats were able to retain the Senate while giving the Republicans a paper-thin majority in the House. President Joe Biden was elated — as he should be. Voters had shied away from populist candidates of the Republican Party’s far right and almost all who Donald Trump had endorsed lost.اضافة اعلان

Pundits, on both sides of the political divide, will scramble to figure out exactly what happened. The Republican Party will resume a journey of soul searching that started when Trump incited his followers to storm the Capitol, on January 6, 2021, in a bid to annul election results. The fallout from that raid, a botched coup to be exact, proved disastrous for the outgoing president and his loyalists.

It was a pivotal triumph, not only for a divided party, the Democrats, and for a president whose popularity had dipped to historical levels, but also for the American democracy, which is what mattered the most for a growing number of American voters.

For the rest of the world, there was a moment of reflection. A red wave would have put America on a new trajectory, especially where foreign policy is concerned. No one really knows what that would have meant for Russia, Europe, China, and the Middle East. It may have paved the way for a Trump comeback in 2024, with all the unpredictable consequences of his political resurrection.

Now, two more years of the Biden White House may mean more of the same, or it could deliver a major reset that could de-escalate tensions across the board in the midst of a very volatile world.

Two more years of Biden may not be good news for all outside the US. The 79-year-old has shown signs of senility at times — dangerous times — and there are questions about his ability to govern for the rest of his term. He may decide not to run in 2024, to give a younger, more sober candidate a better chance to face the Republican Party’s new rising star, Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida.
Sticking to backing the two-state solution is no longer enough. Normalizing an apartheid state is something that threatens to topple international law and conventions.
What is clear now, however, is that Biden will not be a lame duck president as he goes into the last two years of his first term. He and his national security team need to rethink their foreign policy objectives. That may have started already with this week’s meeting between Biden and China’s strongman Xi Jinping, in Bali, Indonesia, where the two men agreed, in principle, to work out their differences and avoid confrontation.

But there are other foreign policy areas where Biden and his team need to rethink, recalibrate and refocus. Certainly, in the Middle East the Biden administration must revisit its hasty reproach of Saudi Arabia’s embrace of foreign policy goals that serve its interests and that of its partners in organizations such as OPEC Plus and others. The region is changing fast and countries are building alliances and partnerships that fulfill the interests of the region that paid a high price for unilateral and self-serving interests of Washington lobbies and think tanks.

One area where the Biden White House needs to take a bold stand is the Israel/Palestine issue. With Benjamin Netanyahu on the verge of putting together the most extreme government in the history of Israel, with openly supremacist ministers on board, the time has come for the US administration to put an end to the carnage in the West Bank and the illegal usurpation of Palestinian lands.

Sticking to backing the two-state solution is no longer enough. Normalizing an apartheid state is something that threatens to topple international law and conventions.

The reset should also include the US policy vis-à-vis the nuclear deal with Iran and the fact that Tehran’s regional agenda is a source of instability in countries like Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and beyond. The policy review should also cover the US military presence in eastern Syria and the need to revive a political settlement to end the Syrian crisis.

Washington should stop looking at regional crises from a perspective of profit and loss, and more as a responsibility to contain and resolve. 

When it comes to the war in Ukraine, one which has had rampant ramifications for the rest of the world, it is time to seek a political settlement and open a path for dialogue. The stakes are too high for a long, open-ended conflict that threatens to divide Europe and trigger new conflicts in Central Asia.

The Biden administration will have to devise an alternative strategy that would spare world economies a major recession, avoid global energy shortages, curb inflation and stave off hunger in vulnerable countries. And most of all, it would avert a nuclear showdown that would spell out disaster for all.

Despite controversial views of America under Biden, of both friends and foes, the US remains a world leader and an influential country that can make a difference. Biden needs to reset most of his foreign policy goals, starting with America’s allies. Results of the midterm elections mean that he can still pursue a vibrant and innovative foreign policy that should lead to de-escalation, while opening the way for breakthroughs in new and old conflicts.


Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.


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