Joe Biden in the face of doubt about America’s role and method

At the UN platform, the American President exposed his «doctrine» for the world, but after the fall of Kabul and the submarine affair, it will take more than one speech to reassure his allies.

«Allies and partners» If the President of the United States had given his speech yesterday at the start of his term, he would have been applauded wholeheartedly in Paris and elsewhere. But now, this speech at the podium of the United Nations General Assembly was delivered five weeks after the fall of Kabul and the doubts it raised about America’s role and method; a few days, too, after the shock of the Australian submarine affair, and the feeling of lack of loyalty to an ally.

Joe Biden was therefore expected, and he made… “Biden”, that is to say, an offensive and positive speech, in which he pronounced a good ten times the formula “with our allies and partner”, reaffirmed the multilateral commitments of the United States for the climate, for the fight against covid, or even vibrant praise of democracy. 

This speech could, in many ways, appear as the antithesis of those of his predecessor Donald Trump, whose speeches at the UN forum acted like cold showers. But after Kabul, the problem is no longer Trump, it is Biden himself.

It will obviously take more than a speech to reassure all those that the behavior of the United States has worried in recent weeks. The brutal abandonment of Afghanistan contrasts with the lyricism on democracy: the Afghans, and especially the Afghan women, fallen under the yoke of the Taliban, are excluded from it.

«Allies and partners»

Similarly, the repeated and strong reference to “allies and partners” contrasts with what France has just experienced in the Australian submarine affair: three countries negotiating behind the back of one of their closest allies ‘to rule out both an important contract and a major diplomatic initiative. The feeling of «betrayal» of Paris is now expressed loud and clear, after a period of heavy silence, by the highest European leaders, and Washington will have to take this into account.

This speech nonetheless sketched out what one might call the “Biden Doctrine” for the world, a mixture of democratic and anti-authoritarian messianism, and a desire for all-out leadership on the part of an invigorated America, without necessarily resorting to military force.

China was not directly named, but it was at the heart of the US President’s intervention. Joe Biden made it clear that he did not want to launch a new “cold war” or a “bloc” policy towards China, but it still smells of it.

On the one hand, there are the alliances of containment of Chinese power, the Aukus, therefore, announced last week, and the Quad, with India, Japan, and Australia, which meets at the end of the week. And on the other, civil initiatives: a vast infrastructure program offered to the rest of the world, during the Chinese “silk roads”, and above all a challenge from democracy to authoritarianism.

The «Biden doctrine» constitutes a program to strengthen the so-called democratic camp, and allow it to regain the ascendancy over a conquering China. But doubts persist about America’s ability to implement this program, and to restore confidence to scalded allies.