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Politics Far Beyond the Water’s Edge: The Last Days of the Trump Presidency

Leon Langdon

Posted on January 20, 2021 23:26

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A look at some of the foreign policy moves undertaken by the Trump administration in the final days of its presidency, and the implications this has for Biden's administration. The piece also looks at the approach the Biden administration should take to cement its place in the world.

US Senator Arthur Vandenberg devised the idea that ‘Politics stops at the water’s edge’, meaning that partisanship should not influence foreign policy. This is a line often seen in textbooks on US Foreign Policy too.

In 2014, a piece in The Washington Post by Robert J. Lieber claimed that this idea had fallen by the wayside in the wake of the Iraq war, and surrounding US involvement in Syria. If that was the case, then this idea has since fallen off the face of the earth.

In the final days of his presidency, Donald Trump, along with administration officials like Mike Pompeo, made a number of foreign policy moves that could only be seen to be intentionally provocative, in an attempt to complicate President Biden’s agenda.

The US declared the repression of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province by China a ‘genocide’. Trump’s ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft, had planned a visit to Taiwan - the first official interaction at UN level since 1971 when the People’s Republic of China replaced the Republic of China at the UN. Such an action would threaten US-China relations.

Furthermore, Cuba has been designated as a state-sponsor of terrorism, and Yemen’s Houthi rebels have been designated as a terrorist group. Cuba-watchers say that there was no logic or reason behind the rushed decision for the redesignation. NGOs have criticized the designation of the Houthis too, saying that it will hamper efforts to get aid to war-torn areas of Yemen.

Whether these are good foreign policy moves is not the issue at the heart of this conundrum -- there is always an argument for and against. The Biden team themselves called for calling the Chinese actions in Xinjiang as a genocide. What is at issue, however, is the weaponization of foreign policy in an attempt to undermine domestic opponents.

The Trump administration has relegated the standing of the US across the world, by playing politics in the international sphere. These latest moves underscore that notion, showing the vindictiveness of the administration, but also reducing the international community’s faith in the US.

Joe Biden will need to shore up the policy areas thrown into disarray by Trump sooner rather than later, and ensure their foreign policy is guided by more than just partisan politics. This is how to restore the faith of EU and NATO allies in the enduring place of the US in the world.

 
Politics will always seep beyond the water’s edge. Different administrations will have different views on multilateralism and unilateralism, as well as America’s place in the world. However, we will, we hope, see an end to petty moves across the world solely to undermine others at home.

If the US intends to keep its place as a global power, it needs to return to the rules-based international system, and provide transparency, logic and continuity to its foreign policy decisions.

 

Leon Langdon

Posted on January 20, 2021 23:26

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Source: Al Jazeera
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Christianity Today publishes editorial calling for Trump's removal over his 'profoundly immoral' actions.

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