It’s one of the strange ironies of American politics. Few things are as politically polarizing as foreign policy, and yet it’s on foreign policy where the differences between the parties are often narrowest. Indeed, viewed from abroad, our allies and adversaries often think that the biggest problem with any new administration is the continuity of U.S. policies, not the change in direction.
Consider two opinion articles on Biden’s foreign policy published late last week. Fareed Zakaria, writing in the Washington Post, asked, “Is Biden normalizing Trump’s foreign policy?” Michael Rubin, writing in the Washington Examiner, asked, “Is Biden’s foreign policy really different from that of Bernie Sanders?”
Both foreign policy experts make a good case. Zakaria notes that, despite his campaign rhetoric, Biden is largely retaining Trump’s trade policies. A Canadian politician, Zakaria points out, even gripes that Biden’s “Buy America” provisions are more protectionist than Trump’s. The Biden campaign had pummeled Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran deal, but the Biden administration hasn’t restored the deal, arguing instead to “lengthen and strengthen” it. Biden has kept Trump’s Cuba policy and has even tightened sanctions.
Rubin sees Cuba as one of the only stark differences between Biden and Sanders on foreign policy (the other being Israel). The most obvious similarity is on trade. Sanders, like Trump, hated the Trans-Pacific Partnership championed by Barack Obama. As vice president, Biden praised it, but now he’s following the Sanders-Trump consensus.