President Joe Biden's inaugural address pledged to "repair our alliances and engage with the world once again." The United States, Biden proclaimed, would "be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress, and security."
This has not happened. Instead, Biden's foreign policy has oscillated between chaos and weakness.
The Afghanistan debacle looms largest here. In March, Biden said that when it came to withdrawing U.S. military forces, "We’re going to do so in a safe and orderly way." He explained, "We’re in consultation ... with our allies and partners in how to proceed."
That did not happen. Instead, Biden insisted, against military advice and basic logic, on withdrawing all U.S. forces from Afghanistan. This meant the departure of 2,500 troops and associated contractors who were providing Afghan security forces with irreplaceable logistics, maintenance, intelligence, and air support. With the U.S. in full flight, the Afghan military quickly collapsed. The Afghan political class retreated in fear and disorder. The Taliban stormed toward Kabul. The terrible scenes from Kabul's international airport were the result of Biden's poor planning.
Top U.S. allies were ignored when they begged Biden to extend the Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline. The truth is that thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Afghan allies were abandoned by a president who ultimately cared nothing for "a safe and orderly" evacuation.
The video of desperate Afghans flying off the wheels of fleeing U.S. Air Force transports will always be a symbol of Biden's foreign policy legacy, as will the deaths of 13 courageous Americans standing a final watch to protect the ignominious and chaotic rout that Biden forced.
Meanwhile, Biden's post-withdrawal plans for an "over-the-horizon" counterterrorism strategy are a fiction, as his generals have admitted. The retaliatory drone strike — supposedly against terrorists, but actually killing an aid worker and several children — testifies to the fact that Biden's over-the-horizon vision is a contradiction in terms.
The big picture is worse still — China's Xi Jinping, Russia's Vladimir Putin, and Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have come to recognize, from all of this avoidable chaos, Biden's callous ineptitude.
Khamenei now trolls the U.S. and threatens Israel's existence with a waltz of prevarication at nuclear talks in Vienna. As Iran continues to enrich uranium in quantities and to a concentrated purity that portends nuclear weapons development, Biden's negotiators are pathetically begging Iran's theocrats to be more cooperative.
But it is Putin who has made the most of Biden's blunders — a funny thing, since Biden spent much of the 2020 presidential campaign pledging to get tough on Putin. Since entering office, Biden's Russia policy has been one of pure appeasement.
Biden removed Trump's sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, betraying European energy security to Putin's energy blackmail strategy. Even as he threatens to invade Ukraine, Putin is now freezing out Europe in order to pressure a rapid activation of that pipeline.
In the face of Russian ransomware attacks against East Coast energy supplies, telecommunications networks, and other critical businesses, Biden has blinked. Ignoring that many of these hackers operate openly in Russia, he has happily paid ransom to Russian security services and absolved Putin of responsibility for the attacks. Biden hints that the NSA has retaliated against the hackers, but his retaliation is a joke — it avoids targeting the responsible parties, the Russian state.
Is it any wonder that Putin is now so confident of Biden's weakness that he feels comfortable openly trolling him with absurd demands? Having amassed more than 100,000 troops around Ukraine's borders, Putin is demanding that Biden pull back U.S. support for Ukraine's pro-American democracy and its self-determination. Putin also insists that NATO withdraw military support from its members in Poland and the Baltic states. He also demands that NATO commit not to enlarge the alliance in the future.
Otherwise, Putin warns, war may follow. How could he make such absurd threats if the U.S. didn't have such a weak and ineffectual president?
Putin's bald threats require a forceful U.S. that Biden is not capable of delivering. He is far softer on Putin than former President Donald Trump ever was.
Biden's year of foreign policy debacles doesn't end there. He has also soured America's relationship with its closest and oldest ally. He has snubbed Britain's interest in a post-Brexit U.S. trade deal, pushing the United Kingdom into the arms of a hostile and genocidal Chinese regime. He has infuriated and embarrassed the French by failing to warn them of his AUKUS submarine deal with Australia. AUKUS makes sense, but it was nonsensical not to give France at least the courtesy of notice. France has responded by undercutting U.S. relationships in the Middle East and reconsidering its support for counter-Chinese efforts in the Indo-Pacific.
Even on China, where Biden's policy has not been nearly as misguided, it is failing. He waited far too long to announce a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and did not apply moral pressure on U.S. multinationals to stop sponsoring those games. This failure reflects the shallow nature of Biden's inaugural commitment to "lead not merely by the example of our power but by the power of our example." These were empty words.
Biden's administration has also been more hesitant than its predecessor to identify, sanction, and otherwise confront Chinese industrial and cyberespionage activities.
White House chief of staff Ronald Klain can go on tweeting that 2021 wasn't all bad, but it's just another example of how Twitter isn't real. It's just too hard to make a silk purse out of his boss's sow's-ear foreign policy.