Person of the Week: Joe Biden is a blessing in this crisis

Person of the week
Joe Biden is a blessing in this crisis

By Wolfram Weimer

He is old, ailing and under pressure domestically. In world politics, the US President still acts with great confidence and caution. It is thanks to his secret diplomacy that the Iran-Israel conflict does not escalate. The motives for this lie deep in his private biography.

Joe Biden is laughed at as a doddering grandpa. Donald Trump attacks him every day with all kinds of vileness. In the US election campaign, he is under constant fire domestically and his poll numbers are poor. But in global politics, the US President acts with an astonishingly statesmanlike mixture of sovereignty and caution that is reminiscent of John F. Kennedy.

It is thanks to his personal, energetic commitment that the Iran-Israel conflict does not escalate further. He is slowing down Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and urging Israel to respond prudently. At the same time, he is surprisingly keeping the mullahs in Tehran in check and, with Saudi Arabia, is opening up a new perspective for order in the Middle East.

Joe Biden is pursuing a mixture of military strength with determination and balancing diplomacy. Pentagon analysts speak of a “carrot and stick” strategy, which can best be translated as “carrot and stick.” Joe Biden has decided to respond directly to the Iranian threat militarily by not only helping Israel with weapons, technology and intelligence, but also by becoming active with its own military – for example in fighting the Houthis loyal to Iran and intercepting missiles. The White House has threatened Tehran with direct US intervention and this has obviously had an effect. A “decapitation strike” is said to have been floated through diplomatic channels.

“You have a victory, take the victory”

Biden, in turn, makes his Israeli partner look demonstratively the winner. The defense against the Iranian attack was an “incredible success”. Israel is currently gaining allies in its Arab neighborhood who are willing to help the country. Biden strongly recommended that Netanyahu now slyly refrain from retaliating against Iran. “You have a victory, take the victory,” he is said to have said to the Israeli prime minister.

Biden thus prevented the outbreak of a major war. The feared conflagration in the Middle East has not occurred – at least for the moment.

Behind the scenes, Biden has achieved a second, barely registered success. His team has been working for months on a larger peace plan involving Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the Emirates. The talks have come a long way and should also play an important role in ending the Gaza conflict in order to push back Iran’s influence among the Palestinians. This could then also mean greater security for Israel.

Really well rested in terms of power politics

Biden is also pursuing the “carrot and stick” strategy in the tradition of Kennedy’s solution to the Cuban crisis in the geostrategic conflict with China. There, too, the US government has confidently put all sorts of weapons on the table, from economic sanctions to an increased military presence in the South China Sea to the formation of a new anti-China alliance in Southeast Asia. At the same time, Biden is opening the conversation channel with Beijing with new telephone conversations with Xi that began a few days ago. Here too, the acute threat of war surrounding Taiwan appears to have been tamed for now.

In terms of foreign policy, the American president proves that he is anything but weak in terms of age and leadership. Despite Donald Trump’s insult about “Sleepy Joe”, Biden turns out to be by no means sleepy, but rather well-rested in terms of power politics. What’s special is that he does it with quiet integrity.

Biden also responded to Russia’s war of invasion with decisiveness in global politics. It is ultimately the massive military aid from the United States that has enabled Ukraine to achieve the miracle of stopping the largest tank army in the world. While Germany hesitated for a long time, Biden sent weapons, billions and meter-precise satellite images to Kiev, even though Donbass is 8,500 kilometers from Washington and many in America would prefer to stay out of Ukraine. From the very first moment, Biden actively gathered the Western community of states into an anti-Russia alliance. He sets the pace for an orchestrated diplomacy and sanctions policy. Under Biden, NATO has grown around Finland and Sweden and has come together again in a way it hasn’t seen in decades.

Biden was vilified at school

From a historical perspective, Washington under Biden is pursuing a systematic containment policy of aggressive despotisms. Containment is achieved through a display of military strength, but also through clever use of soft power. Biden is a stroke of luck for Europe because he is a convinced Atlanticist and multilateralist, he thinks European and believes in rules-based cooperation between the community of states. It thus becomes the security guarantor of European ideals. Without the USA and without Joe Biden, the Ukraine war might have derailed Europe as a whole.

The ability to overcome major crises with caution and strength is engraved in Joe Biden’s personal life. Biden had to overcome disgrace as the stuttering child of an unemployed person. At school they vilified him as “Retarded Joe.” He learned to assert himself without allowing anger or revenge. Later, in 1972, a truck loaded with corn cobs crashed into his family’s Chevrolet station wagon. His wife Neilia and one-year-old daughter Naomi died. Biden had to take his first senatorial oath of office as a young widower. His world was in shambles and he considered suicide. Biden developed a coping strategy in the catastrophe, putting a pen and pad next to his bed and giving each day a grade between one and ten to record small progress, which in turn gave him hope. He learned to counter major crises with a policy of small steps.

In February 1988, he suffered a stroke in his hotel room during the presidential election campaign. His chance of survival was so slim that a priest was called in to replace the devout Catholic. He came to the supposed deathbed before his wife and administered the last sacrament. An emergency operation allowed him to survive, followed by months in rehab. He was only able to walk again after seven months. Life gave him “a second chance” several times, Biden later said. Since then, Biden has seen himself as a specialist for “second chances” – also in political contexts.

Joe and Jill Biden - In 1977, the widowed Biden married a second time.  They met on a blind date arranged by Biden's brother. Joe and Jill Biden - In 1977, the widowed Biden married a second time.  They met on a blind date arranged by Biden's brother.

Joe and Jill Biden – In 1977, the widowed Biden married a second time. They met on a blind date arranged by Biden’s brother.

(Photo: REUTERS)

In 2015, Biden suffered the last family tragedy. He actually wanted to run as a presidential candidate to succeed Barack Obama, but then his beloved son Beau was diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of just 46 and died a gruesome death from cancer. His other son Hunter sank into drug and alcohol excesses and produced a series of scandals.

Biden came through everything badly wounded, but with great dignity. And from every crisis he always learned a lesson about how to overcome it. In any case, the politically aggressive or arrogant has been washed away from Biden in the bleeding wounds of his life. He shows traits of a rare, almost old-fashioned virtue of humility. This is the real reason why he stays calm in conflicts and prefers to patiently make the best of tricky situations.

source site-34