A closer look at Biden's plans for U.S. democracy

Last week, I wrote about former senator and vice president Joe Biden, who now seeks the Democratic nomination for president. As a result of my column, I was offered to be put on the press list of the “Biden for President” campaign and be invited to campaign events.

The first invitation was for a speech at the Graduate Center at City University of New York, where he laid out his blueprint: “To repair the damage wrought by President Trump and chart a fundamentally different course for American foreign policy for the world as we find it today – and as we anticipate it will be tomorrow.”

He promised to reinvigorate American democracy and “strengthen the coalition of democracies that stands with us.”

Biden proclaimed that “democracy is the root of our society, the wellspring of our power and the source of our renewal. It strengthens and amplifies our leadership to keep us safe in the world. It is the engine of our ingenuity that drives our economic prosperity. It is the heart of who we are and how we see the world – and how the world sees us. That is why America’s ability to be a force for progress in the world and to mobilize collective action starts at home.”

He continued, “The United States must lead not just with the example of power, but the power of our example.”

American foreign policy relies on the informed consent of the American people, Biden noted. He promised immediately to return to daily press briefing at the White House, U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Defense.

After having taken essential steps to reinforce the democratic foundation of the country and inspire action in others, Biden intends to organize and host a global Summit for Democracy, “to renew the spirit and shared purpose of nations of the Free World.”

He said he intends to invest and empower the diplomatic corps, keep NATO’s military capabilities sharp and call on NATO to recommit to its responsibility to the democratic alliance.

I asked Colonial Williamsburg’s Mitchell Reiss, who previously served as director of the Office of Policy Planning at the State Department — a post once held by George Kennan, who formulated the policy of containment to fight the Cold War with the Soviet Union — about his take on Biden’s foreign policy vision for America.

“There is much to applaud in the Biden Plan for leading America, especially its emphasis on restoring America’s alliances and promoting human rights and our values,” Reiss said.

“In fact,” he added, “I imagine that all of the centrist Democratic candidates would have little difficulty endorsing it.”

Reiss explained that the plan seems to underestimate the difficulty in addressing threats from Iran and North Korea. Returning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran does nothing to stem the short-term challenges Tehran presents across the Middle East and the long-term threat of its developing a nuclear arsenal.

Reflecting on North Korea, where Reiss spent more time negotiating with the leadership of that country than any other American diplomat, he said that after three decades of administration efforts, there is no reason to believe additional diplomacy will end the North’s nuclear weapons program.

“Finally, the Biden Plan is silent on two of the largest and complex challenges we face: Russia and China,” he said.

“Yet how to address these very different adversaries will greatly influence America’s peace and prosperity and the stability of the international system. As the primaries advance, I hope that Vice President Biden will offer more details as to where and how he plans to lead America.”

Shatz is a Williamsburg resident. He is the author of “Reports from a Distant Place,”the compilation of his selected columns. The book is available at Bruton Parish Shop and Amazon.com.

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