The campaign advertisements of US presidential candidate Joe Biden increasingly refer to the Obama administration, which is viewed by a large number of Americans as an era of normalcy. Barack Obama promised transformation, but he fell short of producing it, particularly in foreign affairs. His policies were successful in strengthening relations with Europe, but they also had their shortfalls and were mostly perceived as a continuation of previous American policies. Should Biden win November’s election, to have a successful presidency he should roll over Obama’s effective policies, but he should definitely also go beyond them. A Biden presidency should not be perceived as a third term for Obama, especially regarding the Middle East.
One successful aspect of Obama’s presidency was his commitment to multilateralism. The Paris agreement to manage climate change was an example of Obama’s successful multilateral approach. He was a highly popular president in Europe and Biden should focus on rebuilding such strong transatlantic relations. If he becomes president, Biden should also take an active role in world affairs and reverse the retrenchment that Obama started. A Chicago Council on Global Affairs poll late last year showed that 69 percent of Americans advocate the US taking an active role in world affairs, while 74 percent support US military alliances. The US needs the support of its allies, particularly those in Europe, to face geopolitical challenges. If elected, Biden would face numerous challenges in Europe, China, North Korea and South America, but mainly in the Middle East.
Regarding this region, Biden should aim to rectify Obama’s shortcomings. The former president adopted a light footprint strategy and relied on diplomacy, but this approach increased tension and instability. To start with, the early withdrawal from Iraq squandered the gains of the troop surge of 2007 by allowing Iran to increase its grip on the country and persecute its Sunni leadership. Terrorist organizations like Daesh flourished as a response to Sunni grievances.
On the issue of Palestine, although Obama started his first term with the intention of offering both the Palestinians and the Israelis an equitable peace, he was not able to enforce a two-state solution on the Netanyahu government. He retreated under pressure from the pro-Israel lobby and the support it had in Congress. In fact, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu successfully bullied Obama and was even able to garner a standing ovation for his criticism of the president in Congress.
In the Middle East, Biden should aim to rectify Obama’s shortcomings.
Dr. Dania Koleilat Khati