Zeeshan Aleem, an MSNBC opinion columnist, slammed President Joe Biden on Monday for his latest “bumbling” foreign policy gaffe on Taiwan.
Aleem slammed the president’s retraction of his claim that the US would “militarily intervene” if China invaded Taiwan, calling it part of a “troubling pattern” that could “unwittingly” signal to US adversaries that the country is “more inclined toward war than it is.” He also criticized Biden’s words, saying they revealed “a lack of clarity born of incompetence or indiscipline rather than a deliberate decision” on his part. The confrontational statement marked a significant departure from the United States’ long-standing policy of ‘strategic ambiguity’ toward Taiwan.
“However, soon after his remarks, Biden’s administration downplayed the statement, saying that the president had not intended to signal a policy change, and that the usual US posture on Taiwan remained unchanged,” Aleem wrote.
According to the author, Biden’s remarks and subsequent White House backtracking are “becoming a familiar pattern: Biden makes a bold statement expressing a new level of readiness for war with a rival or adversary like China or Russia, and then his own staff walks it back.”
“It’s also becoming a troubling pattern — while domestic audiences can laugh off Biden’s gaffes and missteps, there is no guarantee foreign powers will give him the benefit of the doubt,” Aleem said.
He then commented that such statements are hurting Biden and tarnishing the United States’ image on the global stage, saying, “Biden is tarnishing the credibility of his own speech, and potentially unwittingly causing the United States’ opponents to conclude that the United States is more inclined toward war than it is.”
During the Taiwan gaffe, Biden specifically told a reporter that militarily defending Taiwan from China was “the commitment we made,” according to the columnist. Aleem responded to the claim by writing, “That is not the commitment made by the United States. The United States’ traditional stance is to deliberately avoid specifying what it would do in response to a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.”
“It’s a delicate, paradox-laden policy space that requires careful maneuvering and nuance — and one Biden should be well-versed in,” Aleem added, criticizing the president.
He also mentioned Biden and his administration apologizing for previous gaffes by Biden. “The Biden administration has actually done this whole dance on Taiwan at least twice before, with the president appearing to stake out a new, more bellicose position and his staff cleaning up after.” He also brought up Biden’s inflammatory rhetoric against Russia, when his administration was forced to clarify what he meant when he said, “Putin cannot remain in power.”
These foreign policy statements were dubbed “un-strategic ambiguity” by Aleem, who defined it as “a lack of clarity born of incompetence or indiscipline rather than a deliberate decision to keep the opponent at bay.”
He went on to say, “However, non-strategic ambiguity indicates a stumbling foreign policy apparatus. If Biden’s remarks are constantly being mopped up and it’s clear that he can’t stay on message, the gravity of his words is diminished.”
“Worst of all, countries like Russia and China may perceive Biden as more of a saber-rattler than he intends to be, and in turn consider or pivot toward more confrontational policy regimes against the United States than they would otherwise,” he concluded.