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Biden's foreign policy team has made major unforced errors in their first few months on the job

Published by Business Insider on Sat, 01 May 2021


<p><img src="https://static3.businessinsider.com/image/608860653f0560001881c58f-2400/Biden.jpg" border="0" alt="Biden" data-mce-source="Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images" data-mce-caption="President Joe Biden"></p><p></p><bi-shortcode id="summary-shortcode" data-type="summary-shortcode" class="mceNonEditable" contenteditable="false">Summary List Placement</bi-shortcode><p>President Joe Biden's foreign policy team was supposed to be better at this.&nbsp;</p><p>After the disastrous Trump years, Biden was bringing in process-oriented people to help right the ship. But they have made a number of mistakes in their few months because of a failure to involve key experts in the sausage making.</p><p>The most shocking recent illustration of the issue was the inexplicable announcement that the administration planned to <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/white-house-says-will-revisit-this-years-cap-refugee-admissions-2021-4">maintain refugee admission numbers</a> at the historic lows set by President Trump. The administration was <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/biden-announced-statement-trump-refugee-cap-walkback-aoc-2021-4">forced to quickly reverse course</a>, but the head scratching move raised an array of questions as to how decisions are getting made within the national security structure.&nbsp;</p><p>Something clearly is breaking down, as considerable consequences and potential collateral damage is not adequately being considered during deliberations.</p><h2><strong>Lacking voices</strong></h2><p>The refugee cap snafu has echoes of the administration's bungled response to t<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-border-surge/2021/03/20/21824e94-8818-11eb-8a8b-5cf82c3dffe4_story.html">he surge of migrants</a> at the United States' border with Mexico.&nbsp;</p><p>In that case, the new crew was perhaps a bit over eager to <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/biden-press-conference-border-question-immigration-nice-guy-weather-2021-3">send a strong signal</a> that things were shifting on America's immigration policy. Friends at the State Department described the White House moving on immigration messaging without properly consulting experts and embassies in the region. The result was a soaring number of of migrantsespecially unaccompanied minorsheading North on <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/bidens-immigration-policies-dont-match-his-dont-come-message-2021-3">the belief that Biden was prepared</a> to allow them to enter our country.</p><p>Both situations illustrate a rushed development of foreign policy within the White House. On refugees, there was perhaps a belief that because Biden is simply not Trump and spoke warmly of welcoming those in need, any cap increase could be delayed. Not so much. Meanwhile, the problem at the border also belied a dearth of different perspectives being heard.</p><p>I worked with much of this team in the Obama Administration. Biden's advisers are a smart, experienced lot. Part of the challenge is many of them bring quite similar backgrounds to their roles. While they focus overseas, their jobs have for the most part been centered in and around Washington, DC.&nbsp;</p><p>Take National Security Advisor <a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2020/11/27/jake-sullivan-biden-national-security-440814">Jake Sullivan</a>. His political career started as chief counsel for Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who later put him in touch with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He subsequently served in a series of increasingly important positions at the State Department and on the National Security Council. He's undoubtedly one of the brightest foreign policy minds of his generation. But the limited time he has spent on the frontlines of diplomacy, implementing policy decisions is worrying. It can lead to seeing the world through theories and big numbers, rather than harsh realities and local nuances.</p><p>Many on Biden's staff followed similar career paths. When not performing public service, <a href="https://www.axios.com/biden-foreign-policy-diplomats-0e811b60-abdb-49e9-874f-836cadc3240e.html">they work at a small group</a> of think tanks, universities, and consulting firms. It produces a tendency to employ similar buzzwords, read off of a common book list, and look at the world through the same lens. There can be a reluctance to challenge assumptions and explore alternative theories.&nbsp;</p><p>Cutting your national security leadership all from the same cloth can be very efficient and even effective. However, it also leads to a lack of diversity in the debates taking place in the Situation Room. There, you really need a thorough examination of the possible consequences and collateral damage caused by various options. Without it, as we saw with the immigration and refugee issues, you end up overlooking critical considerations or challenges.&nbsp;</p><p>Now is the time for Biden to shake up his foreign policy team. Get people who did not work with us in the Obama days. Ensure you have more people from outside of Washington and especially who bring extensive experience working abroad, like current career diplomats.</p><p>New administrations always make some adjustments in the first few months. Others fail to take advantage of the early opportunity. This is the moment for Biden to course correct and build a better, more inclusive foreign policy process. The first few speed bumps were damaging, but not debilitating. Given the first few months though, I worry about what happens when it's a more serious scenario.</p><p><a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/first-100-days-biden-foreign-policy-immigration-refugee-politics-2021-4#comments">Join the conversation about this story &#187;</a></p> <p>NOW WATCH: <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/pikes-peak-hill-climb-colorado-most-dangerous-racetrack-2020-2">Why Pikes Peak is the most dangerous racetrack in America</a></p>
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