Progressive Views: Course Correction

by Kevin Henning
for the “Progressive Views” column, Boerne Star, August 13, 2021

President Joe Biden standing at a podium
Image by Joe Biden is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

Unfortunately, we are witnessing the resurgence of autocratic regimes around the world  that imperil democracy and the assent of human rights across the globe.  The winner of the contest between authoritarianism and democracy is far from certain.  Moscow and Beijing are big players and are accelerating their efforts to destabilize existing and long-established democratic principles to make the world ripe for autocracy.  Russia uses cyberattacks and misinformation to turn citizens against one another.  China uses its market power and increasing military strength to punish those that would  challenge its autocratic rule.  China is also investing heavily in technology which will help it spread its control and autocratic vision.  Other lesser players also remain troublesome problems for democracy and the wellbeing of  the people in their countries and around the world.  These include nations like Iran, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Belarus and terrorist organizations like Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaida and Isis.

The foreign policy of the United States is undergoing a much-needed major redirection to address these challenges.  Recommitting to the NATO alliance and the collective security of the United States and its longtime allies has been a great first step.  Returning to the Paris Climate Accord is significant for overcoming the Climate Disaster that is bearing down on the world but also sends a signal that international cooperation is important to the United States.  Investing in infrastructure and technology are key elements to hopefully ensure that we will remain competitive and have the capability to counter any action Russia or China take to weaken us.  A key element of this strategy is to focus on a foreign policy that helps the working families in the United States and reduces the middle-class alienization that has contributed to the growing divisions in our nation.  The approach the current administration is taking has been dubbed the “Biden Doctrine” by some folks.

President Biden brings experience and skill to international affairs.  He served twelve years as chair or ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  He has chosen some of the most knowledgeable and credible folks to lead his foreign relations team.  Secretary of State Antony Blinken is a great example.  As a former deputy secretary of state, assistant to the president, and principal deputy national security advisor he is rebuilding the State Department to focus on making the world safe for democracy again.  Seventy-eight Senators voted for his  confirmation which included our own Senator John Cornyn.  Some of Blinken’s early actions include demonstrating support for Israel by affirming that we would continue to recognize Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and keep our embassy there.  Biden’s first call to the Middle East was to former Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to affirm our support of Israel’s security but that there would also be a return to more even-handed approach to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and a two-state solution.  Also, Biden has affirmed cooperation with Saudi Arabia to defeat terrorists and counter Iranian efforts to disrupt the Middle East and the world.

Closer to home Biden will maintain a hardline approach to the crisis in Venezuela and will continue to recognize Juan Guaidó as that country’s legitimate President.  Hopefully, someday the corrupt dictator Maduro can be forced from office and stability can be restored to Venezuela.  The administration will work with Mexico too and Central American countries to find long-term and humane solutions to the immigration crisis.  A key element will be stopping the flow of guns and money to the Mexican Cartels caused by drug smuggling and human trafficking.  His first call after becoming president was to Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau to affirm our long-standing and close bond with our northern neighbor.  

Rebuilding and nurturing our longstanding relationships are key components to the “Biden Strategy.”  Identifying China and Russia as the major foreign relation challenge of our time is appropriate. Cyber-attacks no matter the source must be neutralized and countered.  Implementing tactics to make the strategy work will play out over the next months and years.  I for one believe we will succeed in stopping the onslaught of autocracy.  We must.

Here at home there remains two essential elements for a democracy to function and thrive.  They are civility and truth.  We all must learn to politely listen to divergent views.  We should  try to understand the basis for another’s opinions.  We must also present our views in a civil fashion and most importantly both sides must ground their arguments in truth.

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