The news shared in President Biden’s first major foreign policy speech, delivered February 4th, spanned a register of pressing global issues. Its content was generally unsurprising to experts across the political spectrum, though Biden’s speech itself seems to have prompted a widespread sense of officialized relief.
Two themes arose: First, as Giovanna de Maio of the Brookings Institute puts it, “the interconnection between domestic and foreign policy.” Second, an expectation for lengthy, process-based, often-multilateral negotiations.
I confess exploring the text of the speech and divulging in further implications are hard to keep exclusive—such is how conversation works. In brief, within the speech, President Biden touched on the following: counteracting Chinese and Russian movements against human rights and global evidential independence, both explained in the context of American democracy; condemning the recent Burmese coup in Myanmar (referred to verbatim as “Burma”), an event which occurred notably one mere month after the U.S. Capitol riots; largely rebuilding former alliances with both countries and organizations; restating support for the renewing or rejoining of various treaties underway, including the Paris Climate Agreement and the New START Treaty on nuclear stability; withdrawing all American support for the war in Yemen; defending Saudi Arabia from recent incursions; and increasing resources towards a domestic refugee admissions program, which was linked to supporting LGBTQ+ protections globally. “Combating criminalization and protecting the LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers […] promote[s] the rights of those individuals,” Biden noted after reporting on each.
Biden concluded with an extended positive remark on the interplay between domestic example and international undertakings and vice versa. He did not traverse certain process-oriented details; a lack of information surrounding these multilateral discussions in Western Europe sticks out particularly.
Many left-leaning news outlets are split. Biden’s speech seems to have made good on his promises made in his inauguration speech last month. However, there’s still fear that the administration’s efforts will be restricted to “the minimum expected of a Democratic administration, not ‘building back better,’” as U.S Ambassador Donald Steinberg references to a colleague in Just Security.
Others merely fear plateauing. So far, the U.S.’s increased commitment to aiding the global refugee crisis and Paris Agreement, in particular, are not expected to meet each worrying statistical rise.
Michael Hirsch of Foreign Policy argues that Biden’s recent speech appeals to populist (peoples-centric), lower and middle-class interests for a reason, that beyond comfort for the previous four years under the Trump administration, the speech sought to simplify itself to cater towards many. After all, Hirsch writes, “Biden’s declared intent [was] to make the rest of the world forget the turbulent four years of Trump’s presidency and, instead, to see the United States again as a global leader and force for democracy and human rights.”
The push towards accessible news and free press, among the new administration’s want to rebuild domestic confidence, is a reason to celebrate for many people. Concord Academy, given its interests in global citizenship and status as an international institution, may well invest in critically examining what is coming. “America is back,” Biden remarked in his opening statement. Debates rage over whether a status quo ante America can really be achieved, although comparably many people also deem this irrelevant. To them, this new environment might be a cause for innovation.