By: Rich Berdan
Putting aside our bias one way or the other for former President Donald Trump; let’s consider what the state of world affairs might look like today if Trump became the president in the 2020. Outcomes under a Trump administration may be hypothetical or a myriad of assumptions, however it is unique in that we can gauge President Joseph Biden’s stark policy differences to the former president’s track record and known approaches to circumstances facing America and the international community while he was in office.
An open mind is required within the current acute political divide where Trump’s bellicose aggression and Biden’s apparent cognitive decline are both put on the backburner. The contrast on foreign affairs policy becomes very apparent between these two diametrically opposed leaders that has clearly set the nation and the world in complete opposite directions at the fork in the electorate road.
On the international front, enemies or those willing to confront American interests are well known to be far less respectful towards a cautious, passive, and visionary leader in the likes of Biden whereas the enemy will think much longer before acting militarily or crafting strategic expansions if they were to ruffle a bold and active leader in Trump. This is evident when analyzing each of the president’s track records when decisively acting or reacting to threats and conflicts impeding national security interests.
During Trump’s tenure as president, he took the fight to ISIS and essentially eradicated the insane caliphate whereas the barbaric sect flourished under the Obama-Biden Administration. When former President Barack Obama failed to unilaterally act in 2013 when Syria crossed his redline after allegedly using chemical weapons on their own people, it emboldened Russia and Iran to fill the vacuum in the region as American leadership waned. Trump, on the other hand, struck Syrian and Russian military assets in 2017 with a barrage of 59 tomahawk cruise missiles in retaliation following the Syrian dictator’s apparent use of banned chemical agents on innocent civilians. The belligerents knew full well the consequences if they carried out this inhuman act again knowing Trump’s big stick is for real. Trump made it clear when he said, “No child of God should ever suffer such horror”.
With North Korea testing ballistic missiles and threatening US allies in the region, Trump to the cringe of many, stated the US has a bigger button than North Korea. This set the stage to meet with Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, and subsequently see the rouge nation cease their escalation of menacing tests during the remainder of the Trump administration. It was not long after Biden took office where in 2021 North Korea restarted a nuclear reactor and began ballistic missile testing. A minimal response by Biden to North Korea’s actions sent a clear message to the world that America is weaker under this leader.
Russia seized the strategic Crimea from Ukraine under the Obama-Biden presidency with little to no consequences. Through Trump’s term, there were no significant Russian territorial expansion due to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s respect for a strongman in the White House. In fact, Trump was ridiculed for pushing against Russia when he called out NATO for not paying their share of the alliance’s military spending and for advising Germany not to rely on the Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline for their gas.
Biden, who often called out Trump for his cozy relationship with Putin, was quick to lift sanctions on the Russian firm behind the Nord Stream 2 project. Essentially, Germany is now hostage to their reliance on Russian energy to fuel their economy, and the pipeline is now a major geopolitical prize to bankroll the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine. Biden’s decision is a major strategic miscalculation.
The distinction between Trump and Biden is most acute when dealing with Iran and the Middle East. Past presidents promised to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Trump was the only one to deliver on that promise during his term. Trump also took a tough stand against Iran with severe economic sanctions that had the regime floundering towards capitulation on their nuclear ambitions. He then cut off aid to the Palestinians for continuing to perpetuate instability and their unwillingness to recognize the Jewish State’s right to exist. These decisions by Trump placed America in a position of strength in negotiating favorable outcomes for the people across the entire region.
We quickly witnessed the fruits of Trump’s policies when he did what no other president did before him. Not since the historic peace agreement between Egypt and Israel in 1979, had any other Arab country in next four decades recognized the State of Israel. In 2020, the United States, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed the Abraham Accords to chart a new course in history to normalized diplomatic relations with Israel. Later that year, two other Arab nations, Sudan, and Morocco, followed suit and joined the Abraham Accords.
A central outcome of the Abraham Accords between the signatory countries has seen the blossoming of bilateral initiatives within the private sectors and civil society. This has set the stage for geopolitical and economic benefits spilling over in the region and establishing a foundation for peace that other countries can tap into; and it singled a collaborative bulwark against a threatening Iran regime bent on destabilizing the region. The Abraham Accords could inevitably advance a Palestinian solution by opening new channels of communication between the Arab signatories and Israel to give the Palestinian people new opportunities in pressing their leaders for similar benefits from the Accords.
Biden, on the other hand, reversed course on Trump’s major achievements, and now finds himself scrambling to save face with America’s allies in the region. Biden restored Obama’s sanction waivers to Iran that allows Russian and Chinese companies to carry out non-proliferation work to make it harder for Iran nuclear sites to be used for weapons development. To be clear, American rivals will oversee the enemy to make it harder but not prevent Iran from destabilizing the world with a nuclear arsenal. The American relieve in sanctions now infuses the Iranian regime with cash to fund their state-sponsored terrorism hubs in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, and Yemen; and provide Russia with military technology to fight America in Ukraine.
On the heels of Biden’s recent trip to beg for oil from Saudi Arabia, a country he has labeled as a pariah, Iran announced that they are now capable of making a nuclear bomb. Kamal Kharrazi, a senior advisor to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said they can easily produce enough enriched uranium to acquire a nuclear weapon; essentially admitting the rouge nation has exceed the enriching cap put in place in the Obama 2015 nuclear deal.
Biden’s head may be in the sand on the quid pro quo to lift sanctions on Iran in exchange for Putin, the wily fox in the hen house, overseeing the Iranian nuclear deal. The Russian president won staunch support for his country’s military campaign in Ukraine when the Iranian Supreme Leader said the West opposes an independent and strong Russia in the face of a NATO military push onto its borders. Comments from the Iranian parliament described Russia as Iran’s most strategic partner.
Putin hailed the importance of the close ties between Moscow and Tehran when he added that the two countries have work to “strengthen their cooperation on international security”. This statement would have once been garnered by America in a show of their world strength and leadership.
Two years into his term, Biden now finds it uncomfortable in the box he created for himself that is increasingly becoming smaller. He has lost much of the political capital gained by Trump in the Middle East, and he is now clamoring to regain influence. When Biden claimed America is back, its enemies may have been rejoicing to see the reset from Trump.
It may be too late. Biden is now urging Israel and Arab countries to push back on Russian, Chinese, and Iranian influence. Nothing like codifying this Axis powers by calling them out. India and Brazil may be sliding over ever so quietly. Israel must wonder if America truly has their back covered when meeting with the Palestinian leadership and reinstating American funding. Saudi Arabia and the UAE took what wins were available during awkward Biden visit and they will decline to pump more oil beyond a plan approved by their energy alliance with Moscow. If that was not enough salt in the wound, the Saudis purchase of Chinese weapons is up 400%.
Following Biden’s chaotic evacuation from Afghanistan that left hundreds of millions in weaponry in the hands of the Taliban and a nightmare scenario where 12 U.S. troops were killed by a suicide bomber; Russia had basically seen enough weakness in Biden to forage ahead with plans to invade Ukraine.
War is unpredictable at best. Russia most likely will hold onto eastern Ukraine with eventual fractures to a weakened Biden-led European alliance wilting in fear over a very cold winter. The billions of unaccountable dollars sinking into a corrupt Ukraine will begin to dry up. Russia’s known ability to retrench and simply wear down the opposition will see this war drag out until Biden is replaced or until the Ukrainian people realize they are not up to the task.
There is also a sharp contract in the leader’s action on the southern US border with over 2 million illegal immigrants projected to flood into American cities across the nation this year and causing great economic hardship. Some illegals are terrorists, criminals, carrying the coronavirus, or bringing in millions of fentanyl doses that are killing tens of thousands of Americans. Which Commander-in-Chief do we believe will build a wall and protect the homeland?
Summarizing, Trump was quite often labeled a war monger, yet he did not lead America into a war or quagmire that his critics predicted. Trump did carry a big stick when required to mitigate the ISIS and to send a decisive message when striking Syrian assets for their use of chemical weapons. On the other hand, for all his pugnacious warlike talk, he took the time to meet with foes to build a relationship of respect and transparency that led the belligerents to backdown from their aggressive overtures and military aspirations.
Biden, on the other hand, with a 40-year tenure in public office vs. Trump’s four years, is conflicted at best in allowing politics to sway the leader and become less predictable than the portrayed unhinged Trump. Allies and enemies alike may demonstrate a superficial respect for Biden, yet they question his instincts and willingness to decisively lead, defend, or attack. When Biden does act, the foreign policy strategy can become murky, too late, or prolonged; and subsequently the US military becomes ambiguous to the strategic objective and rules of engagement.
A 2024 rematch between Biden and Trump seems almost certain if one of them announces, and the other is inclined to challenge. While high inflation, crushing gas prices, jobs, and the overall economy will weigh most heavily on Americans at the polls, foreign policy leadership will certainly be a contrasting issue to consider when deciding who can best lead and defend America in an increasingly volatile world.