The myopic vision of Joe Biden | Political economics


merica appears to be desperately trying to perpetuate its influence in South Asia. The voting pattern at the United Nations General Assembly on Russian military action against Ukraine was indicative of a paradigm shift in South Asian foreign policy options.

Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India abstained from voting, showing an impartiality that the United States had difficulty digesting. The change underscored the increase in Sino-Russian influence. That was enough to ring alarm bells in Washington DC. South Asia is significant as it borders China, Russia, Iran, Central Asian states and the Gulf region.

It is important to note that Saudi Arabia, which wields predominant influence in the region, and Iran, which has its own sphere of influence, have less than ideal relations with the United States. Iran has over 40 years of animosity with the United States. Saudi Arabia has recently been alienated due to Joe Biden’s short-sightedness in his dealings with America’s long-term strategic partners, including Saudi Arabia.

Turkey has recently reviewed its foreign policy options. Tayyip Erdogan has shown independence in formulating his multilateral relationship. Unlike his predecessors, Erdogan has thrown his weight behind efforts to reinvigorate an Islamic bloc. It didn’t go over well with the Americans.

One can see a thaw in Turkey’s relations with Russia which has added insult to injury. On top of that, several attempts to depose Erdogan have failed. The United States is therefore in a dilemma as to how to block the growing Sino-Russian influence with stubborn persistence.

No promising policies to deal with the issue are in evidence. Iran is yet another state with an antagonistic posture. Doing without Imran Khan in Pakistan or destabilizing Sri Lanka will hardly serve American interests. Instead of destabilizing these states, the United States must resort to serious introspection and think of a different approach to the problem at hand.

What went wrong with the world’s only superpower in Afghanistan where it had to make an unceremonious exit after spending billions of dollars and 20 years of physical presence? Why didn’t he manage to see Bashar-ul Assad’s back in Syria despite all his efforts? His inability to restore order in Iraq and Libya after the removal of Saddam and Gaddafi speaks volumes about the failure of his strategy. These failures call for a radical revision of its worn-out foreign policy options. From this perspective, we can turn our gaze to his decision to effect regime change in Pakistan.

What went wrong with the world’s only superpower in Afghanistan where it had to make an unceremonious exit after spending billions of dollars and 20 years of physical presence? Why didn’t he manage to see Bashar-ul Assad’s back in Syria despite his best efforts?

The State Department in Washington and those crammed into Langley will be well advised before embarking on regime change to take the time to thoroughly read British strategy to derive their imperial strategy.

In general, the British resorted to punitive measures as a last resort. They tended to lure their opponent with typical trader openings. After 1857, the British avoided direct confrontation with the colonized unless they had no other choice. Making deals with popular figures in the area was the tried and tested method of gaining a foothold instead of threatening them with dire consequences if their bids were not executed.

In the contemporary scenario, China, unlike the Americans, refrains from exerting such pressure and has benefited from the policy. Imran Khan is bold, aggressive and independent. It cannot be dictated. If he survives the US decision and returns with an overwhelming majority, US interests in the region will be seriously threatened. If that happens, history’s verdict on Joe Biden will be quite harsh.

America has had several presidents who personified mediocrity, but Joe Biden surpasses them all. The way he handled Afghanistan is a succinct testament to his inability and myopia. What his administration is doing vis-à-vis Pakistan and Sri Lanka through an “imported” human resource (Donald Lu is an ethnic Chinese) confirms his limited ability to deliver the United States from a mess which he created himself.

Interestingly, Mr. Lu sent the same message to all dissident South Asian states, including India.

The attempted political re-engineering in Pakistan has resulted in a resurgence in Imran Khan’s popularity. Such interference in the affairs of states like Pakistan will not serve the cause of democracy. Pakistan’s political elite could forge a consensus to adopt a model of governance other than democracy that allows corruption and more space for criminal mafias.

There are already rumors suggesting Chinese or Singaporean models for Pakistan with the promise of accelerated development and greater socio-political stability. If America continues to meddle in the affairs of other countries, it will also damage its stature as a world power. The sooner he understands the new reality, the better.

The author is a professor at faculty of liberal arts Beacon House National University, Lahore. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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