America is ready to lead, says Biden as he unveils his foreign policy team

Updated on Nov 25, 2020 11:37 AM IST

Biden’s nominee for ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, an African American diplomat with 35 years in the foreign service, summed up the new team’s ethos and purpose with a similar sentiment: “America is back. Multilateralism is back. Diplomacy is back.”

President-elect Joe Biden stands with his nominees for his national security team at his transition headquarters in the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware, US on November 24.(Reuters)
President-elect Joe Biden stands with his nominees for his national security team at his transition headquarters in the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware, US on November 24.(Reuters)
Hindustan Times, Washington | ByYashwant Raj , edited by Vinod Janardhanan

President-elect Joe Biden introduced members of his foreign policy and national security team on Tuesday with a clear message for the world: the US is returning to reassert its global leadership to fight terrorism, control the pandemic, deal with climate crisis, nuclear proliferation and cyber threats.

“America is back. Ready to lead the world, not retreat from it. Ready to confront our adversaries, not reject our allies,” Biden said in Wilmington, Delaware.

Biden’s nominee for ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, an African American diplomat with 35 years in the foreign service, summed up the new team’s ethos and purpose with a similar sentiment: “America is back. Multilateralism is back. Diplomacy is back.”

It was a clear and direct repudiation of President Donald Trump’s “America First” vision and policies that, as the Democrat has said several times before, left “America Alone” on the global stage.

Former Trump officials such as defence secretary James Mattis have called for the incoming president to eliminate the “America First” policy.

Biden introduced his “incredible team” of incoming officials in both policy and personal terms, talking about his long years of association with them.

He called secretary of state Antony Blinker one of “my closest and most trusted advisors”.

Avril Haines, his nominee for Director of National Intelligence, he said, “Can talk literature and theoretical physics, fixing cars, flying planes, and running a bookstore cafe, in a single conversation — because she’s done all of that”. And she has been a former deputy director of the CIA.

The country’s next top spy also took the opportunity to tell the president-elect she will not hesitate to tell him something he did not want to hear. “Mr President-elect, you know that I have never shied away from speaking truth to power, and that will be my charge as Director of National Intelligence,” she said.

About John Kerry, the special presidential envoy on climate, Biden said he was “one of my closest friends”, and his appointment reflected the importance he accords to combating the climate crisis.

And Jake Sullivan, who will be the youngest National Security Adviser in US history at 43, “understands my vision that economic security is national security,” the president elect said.

Biden’s overall message was clear: he and his team will reverse last four years of American approach to foreign policy and national security, put the US back in its leadership and the men and women he had nominated were close to him, they spoke for him and reflected his priorities in their entirety.

No one among the nominees manifested more America’s return to the global stage and Blinken, a globalist. He accepted the nomination with a story about his stepfather, a Holocaust survivor, who broke away from a death march into the woods in Germany.

“From his hiding place, he heard the rumbling sound of a tank. Instead of an Iron Cross, he saw a 5- pointed White Star. He ran to the tank. The hatch opened. An African American GI looked down at him. He fell to his knees and said the only three words he knew in English that his mother had taught him: God Bless America. The GI lifted him into the tank, into America, into freedom.

“That’s who we are. That’s what America represents to the world, however imperfectly.”

Alejandro Mayorkas, the nominee for Department of Homeland Security, is the first Latino to hold that position. And he drew out contrast from the previous administration, whose anti-immigration actions led to international outrage, such as the caging children separated from their parents.

Mayorkas, whose family immigrated from Cuba, said it was his department’s “noble mission” to “advance our proud history as a country of welcome”.

The Biden team has created some excitement among policy experts. “It’s an excellent team. Sharp, pragmatic and dedicated to strong American leadership and close alliances,” said Richard Fontaine, Chief Executive Officer of the Center for New American Security, a think tank.

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