Everyone has probably calmed down a little by now from the swell of excitement over Joe Biden’s latest diplomatic distraction, announcement of a brand-new Pacific alliance among the U.S., Australia, and Great Britain that is aimed at some unidentified, emerging strategic powerhouse there.
Remember all the campaign talk last year about how, unlike Donald Trump, a President Biden would pay close attention to and cultivate our close allies who are so important in this messy world?
No? Unfortunately, Biden did not remember all that campaign talk either, because he abandoned Bagram Air Base and jerked all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan in the dark of night in July, six weeks early, without informing either the host Afghan government or all the NATO allies who’ve fought and died alongside us for the last two decades.
The predictable result, of course, was the sudden, total collapse of the Afghan Army, an easy re-conquest of the entire country by Taliban forces, and the stranding of thousands of endangered Americans and allies in enemy territory.
Which required re-inserting thousands of U.S. troops to protect a massive evacuation that still left thousands of Americans and allies behind, and more than 200 Americans and Afghans dead from a homicide bombing.
Don’t worry, though. Joe Biden is safe in his Delaware beach house this weekend, where he is doing nothing about extracting the American hostages held by the Taliban in Mazar-i-Sharif, just as easily as he’s been doing nothing about extracting them while planted in the Oval Office.
Think about the scale of this: Turns out, the estimated $85 billion in military equipment also abandoned in Biden’s hasty withdrawal to the insurgent forces we’ve been fighting for two decades was the world’s largest international weapons transfer in a half-century.
To distract Americans’ attention from these deadly, costly, humiliating blunders in Kabul, Biden has been busily instigating disputatious debates by announcing other stuff.
Like a national vaccine mandate that last year he said was totally unnecessary. And restricting distribution of antibody treatments to some states such as Florida where, coincidentally, a Republican governor has been critical of the Democrat administration.
Biden’s latest attempted distraction was billed as a major, new diplomatic alliance with Britain and Australia in the Indo-Pacific region to strengthen a joint strategy in case, you know, some unnamed populous country with a vast army and a rapidly-expanding navy emerged and happened to develop designs on expanding its power and influence in that region.
Both recent Democrat presidents have made much noise about “a pivot” from a Euro-centric foreign policy to one focused in the Pacific. Barack Obama did a deal with Australia to rotate several hundred Marines through a base in Darwin every six months, which sounds good for teamwork but will not alter history.
Obama went to give a nationwide speech in Indonesia. He reminisced about his childhood there and recounted America’s national motto: “E Pluribus Unum” (From Many, One).
That’s not actually the United States’ motto. But “In God We Trust” might not go over so well in the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
Biden sent Kamala Harris to Singapore and Vietnam recently, where she discussed selling another old Coast Guard cutter to Hanoi.
Now, comes this exciting new “alliance.” Like most of Biden’s diplomacy though, there’s much less to it than meets the eye. Remember in February, Biden ordered a few Iranian militia buildings blown up in retaliation for rocketing a base in Iraq where Americans are stationed? That was to show his iron resolve.
Well, we learned later Biden had simultaneously sent back-channel messages to Iran that he really wasn’t looking for a fight. So, the mullahs could disregard the bombing.
Hoping to entice Iran into new nuclear talks, Biden has lifted economic sanctions on Iranians with no demands for reciprocity. Same for sanctions on Russia’s undersea gas pipeline, which will damage U.S. energy sales to Europe. While he was killing the domestic Keystone pipeline that would help U.S. energy independence.
Boiled down to its essence, Biden’s new alliance involves 18 months of trilateral consultations with Australia to share super-secret nuclear propulsion secrets and discuss probably building its first nuclear submarine, which can take up to 14 years.
And that’s it.
Biden has promised to be more attentive than Trump to the concerns of allies. But he neglected to mention this new deal to NATO partner France, which had already signed a suddenly superseded, $66 billion conventional submarine construction contract with Australia.
For some strange reason, Paris took offense and recalled its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra, a diplomatic pout usually reserved for Moscow-Washington when new spies are uncovered. But it’s the first time France has done that since it helped win the Revolutionary War in 1781.
“Allies don’t do this to each other,” said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, adding, this is “what Mr. Trump used to do.”
The new alliance is a minor extension of decades of defense cooperation, including intelligence-sharing, that runs back to World War II. It was announced on a three-way video hookup with Biden, Britain’s Boris Johnson, and Australia’s Scott Morrison.
Presiding with his usual ignorant smugness, Biden was also his usual confused self. He actually forgot who he was talking with.
“Thank you, Boris,” Biden said, turning toward the screen with Prime Minister Morrison. “And I want to thank, uh, that fella Down Under. Thank you very much, pal. Appreciate it, Prime Minister.”
American media, of course, glossed over this international insult as, you know, fellow Democrat, good ol’ Joe, the guileless gaffe-meister who is thankfully not Trump, the mean Tweeter.
As you might imagine, Australian media saw this somewhat differently, as a serious insult from a phony, career American politician whose often incoherent mumblings have been the subject of much critical commentary there.
In a background briefing, a U.S. defense official said, “I do want to just underscore very clearly this partnership is not aimed (at) or about any one country.”
But China took umbrage anyway, apparently thinking it was the populous nation with a vast military and strategic designs on South Pacific waters, where it’s building numerous artificial islands as naval bases and airfields with impunity. A Chinese spokesman urged the allies to shake off their “Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice.”
Here’s some context for this major Biden announcement about one future Australian submarine: China already has a military of 2.8 million members, more than twice the size of the U.S. military.
China’s navy has 350 ships, also more than the U.S., with new ones coming online steadily. Its fleet includes 57 diesel-electric subs, which are slower but actually quieter than its five, nuclear attack submarines. The U.S. operates 68 subs, all nuclear-powered.
A third aircraft carrier is under construction. Last spring, China launched two new capital ships on the same day. It has practiced targeting an orbiting satellite with a missile, done joint exercises with Russian forces, and is building its own global GPS system.
Late last year, a Chinese robot landed on the Moon, scooped up two kilograms of soil and returned it to Earth. Beijing is scheduled to send a man or woman back there by 2025.
But the Biden administration feared Beijing might think it was preparing for a possible future confrontation. Which, of course, it did anyway.
The N.Y. Times professes to see an emerging pattern in Biden’s empty foreign policies, which it calls the “Biden Doctrine.” So, watch for more consistent inconsistencies as he builds them back better.