The Biden campaign is releasing the names of these former officials and experts, who have served in seven different presidential administrations, as part of Biden’s strategy to run as the Democratic candidate with (by far) the most foreign policy experience in the field. But the list of endorsers also reinforces Biden’s call for a return to a more centrist, traditional foreign policy — not a progressive break from the norm — as a response to the Trump administration’s mismanagement of a host of international crises.
“America’s standing in the world and our ability to advance the interests and values of the American people have taken a big hit these past three years. We need a new president in 2020, and Vice President Biden is the best candidate to bring us back to stable ground, repair the damage done, and restore our place in the world from his first day in office,” said Antony Blinken, former deputy secretary of state, now a senior adviser to Biden’s campaign.
The president faces impeachment for manipulating Ukraine policy to serve his political purposes. Chaos reigns in Syria following Trump’s schizophrenic withdrawal announcements. The administration has offered scant support for Hong Kong protesters. And international distrust of the United States is at an all-time high. Amid all this, Biden’s team is betting Americans are ready for a return to foreign policy run by professionals.
Biden knows world leaders personally, knows the issues and is in the best position to fix the damage Trump has inflicted on U.S. international standing and influence, Blinken said. Biden is also running on a defense of U.S. values, something those who are endorsing him today also believe to be crucial.
“They know that he’s devoted to rebuilding American leadership — not as a slogan, but as a beacon of democracy, human rights, and hope for people around the world,” Blinken said.
The campaign also released a new ad today driving home the theme.
Many of the new endorsers were senior national security officials in the Obama-Biden administration and have had ties to Biden for many years, including former national security adviser Tom Donilon, former undersecretary of state Nick Burns, former deputy CIA director Avril Haines, former homeland security and counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco and Biden’s former national security advisers Jake Sullivan and Colin Kahl.
Many of these officials are prepared to be public surrogates for the Biden campaign and can testify to his specific actions and accomplishments on foreign policy, not only as vice president, but also as Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman for years before that.
“No member of Congress was more helpful and more knowledgeable about foreign and defense policy than Joe Biden,” said Burns. “Joe Biden has the experience in the White House and Senate to keep us safe and to lead us towards a more positive and peaceful future.”
There are also 77 former U.S. ambassadors coming out for Biden, many of whom are career Foreign Service officers who served both Democratic and Republican administrations. These officials are part of the foreign policy establishment Trump has often railed against. But as the current impeachment inquiry is showing, they are often the ones defending American interests and values on the front lines.
In a CNN town hall Monday night, Biden talked at length about how he would approach foreign policy as president. He promised to bring home most combat troops from the “endless wars” but said he would keep small numbers there to lead coalitions to fight terrorism. He defended U.S. bases abroad as an anchor of international peace and stability.
Biden criticized China for interning more than a million Uighurs in camps and “shooting people in the streets” in Hong Kong rather than upholding its commitments to preserve Hong Kong’s autonomy. And he criticized the Trump administration for not supporting the protesters more vocally.
“We're silent and wonder why the rest of the world thinks that we're not going to stand up,” he said. “We have to lead the world, and we have to lead it by our example and making it clear that human rights and civil rights and civil liberties, they matter to us.”
Biden’s pitch for a return to alliances based on shared values and a turn away from Trump’s embracing of autocrats and dictators is not revolutionary. Some of his primary rivals, such as Elizabeth Warren, want to change U.S. foreign policy more drastically by cutting defense budgets and pulling all the way out of Afghanistan and Syria.
But after nearly three years of Trump ignoring the advice of foreign policy professionals, we must ask ourselves: How is that working out? Maybe the patriotic Americans who have devoted their lives to serving this country and fighting for the United States’s role as a good and wise international actor deserve to be respected and heard.
The full list of endorsements can be found here.