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Biden fighting for political survival amid decline in America's greatness

 President Joe Biden speaks from Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2022, in Washington. [AP photo]

In his 2024 State of the Union address, United States President Joe Biden was combative against three men: Russia’s Vladimir Putin, former US President Donald Trump, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

They make him look weak and irk him so much that he needed to ventilate his frustration. “History is watching, just like history watched three years ago on January 6th”, he declared, when “insurrectionists stormed this very capital and placed a dagger at the throat of American democracy.”

Although Biden, when assuming office in January 2021, had talked of the US being ‘back’ and ready to lead the world, he actually had problems convincing those he hoped to lead. While insisting he would not bow to either Trump or Putin, he remained defensive of Israeli activities in Gaza, vetoing UN ceasefire resolutions, and pleading with Netanyahu to permit humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza.

Biden is not the first president to invoke or recruit ‘history’ to justify policies. It is a streak that combines imperialism with claims of spreading ‘democracy’, often invoking supposed divine blessings.

It is anchored on a belief that previous world history was preparation for Jacksonian ‘democracy’ which was to be spread elsewhere by force or cajoling. That belief, inherently racist, led to the civil war over slavery, and subsequently entrenched racism in every US foreign policy.

It was visible in Theodore Roosevelt who engineered the Spanish-American War theoretically to free Cubans and ended up grabbing territories in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, including Puerto Rico where Ariel Henry has taken refuge to escape the wrath of the Haitians.

Roosevelt was a friend of Rudyard Kipling with his ‘White Man’s Burden’ gospel for whites to dominate the rest. It would be a sin against humanity, Roosevelt told cheering white settlers at the Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi in 1909, not to turn East Africa into "white man’s country".

Woodrow Wilson wanted to ‘teach’ Latin American countries ‘how to elect good men’ and claimed to be fighting to make the world safe for democracy which never was.

History watched Wilsonian messianic zeal sprout in Biden’s previous boss, Barack Obama, who thought of forcing countries to be on the ‘right side of history’, the American side. The result was the various ‘Arab Springs’ that Obama’s Secretaries of State Hilary Clinton and John Kerry explained using baffled logic.

Kerry termed overthrowing an elected Mohamed Morsi in Egypt as enhancement of democracy and Clinton cheered the killing of Muamar Gaddafi as NATO forces bombed Libya into perpetual chaos. She regretted pressing the Palestinians to hold elections in Gaza which Hamas won, and then suggested ways of ensuring that her side would always win in future elections. She failed to ensure her own election in 2016 in which Trump won and seemingly plunged the US into deep self-doubt.

History is watching increased American self-doubt as Biden searches for political survival in the midst of declining American greatness because America has lost common sense. Subsequently, history watches him mess up claims to world leadership in Ukraine, Gaza, and Haiti.

He, and his post-Cold War predecessors, undercut trust in anything American by breaking promises, repeatedly ignoring warnings not to prick Moscow’s survival instincts by expanding NATO to the Russian border, and do not know how to get out of the Ukrainian pit.

In Gaza, Biden seems like a ‘hostage’ to Netanyahu, thereby eroding American claims to world leadership, which is especially wanting in Haiti where he is evacuating Americans. He at least ‘praised’ President William Ruto into agreeing to send police officers to confront a waiting ‘Barbecue’.

Despite promises of US logistical and financial support, however, Ruto should rethink the Haiti mission and avoid being sucked into Biden’s global messes. On his part, in handling the three messes, Biden appears lost figuratively and in reality. History is watching Biden squandering his opportunities to lead.

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