Joe Biden’s Foreign Policy of Smoke and Mirrors

Shimmer Analysis
4 min readMay 18, 2024


On May 8, Joe Biden declared that the United States would withhold arms deliveries to Israel in the event of an offensive in Rafah. The announcement was swiftly condemned by sensible voices across the political spectrum. Twenty-six House Democrats signed a letter protesting Biden’s move to deter the Israelis from battling Hamas in its major stronghold. Matthew Continetti notes that Bernie Sanders was one of “the few lawmakers who unequivocally backed” the president’s decision. Yet observers were perhaps most incensed by a report that the administration had avoided mentioning the plan to withhold weapons until after Biden’s speech on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Human rights lawyer Arsen Ostrovsky wrote that involving Holocaust Remembrance Day in such political machinations was “below contempt.”

This despicable maneuver fits a broader pattern in Biden’s foreign policy, namely its obsession with appearances as opposed to reality. On the world stage, the president consistently prioritizes symbolism and spectacle over substance. For instance, the choice to instrumentalize Holocaust Remembrance Day bears a striking resemblance to his earlier attempt to squeeze some political capital out of the attacks of September 11, 2001. In 2021, as Jed Babbin recounts, Biden picked September 11 as the target date before which all US troops would be pulled from Afghanistan. The commitment was stated publicly in April, with no prior consultation of allies. “There were no conditions in Afghanistan compelling that retreat,” comments Babbin, “so the deadline was entirely arbitrary.”

Joe Biden being sworn in as vice president, 2009.

Biden has likewise elevated semblance over substance in his policy towards Russia. The commander-in-chief has done an impressive amount of verbal posturing on the issue, frequently straying into hyperbole. “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” he infamously said of Vladimir Putin, only for the White House to walk the comment back on the same day. Just two months ago, he accused Donald Trump of “bowing down” to Putin in a spech to Congress. A Radio Free Europe article reporting on the event knowingly remarked that Biden delivered them “as he sought to win over undecided voters.” That is indeed the right context in which to view such statements, which are clearly designed to make the elderly statesman appear proactive.

In his actions, however, Biden has been pitifully soft on Russia. As Daniel Kochis explains, Biden provoked the Kremlin to escalation in Ukraine by acquiescing to the construction of Nord Stream II and ramping up diplomacy with Moscow in a manner that showed “a near desperate desire for accommodation.”

Apparently, the Biden administration is under the impression that words and signs are more important than any underlying reality. What can explain this fetishization of images and statements? A few perspectives are possible.

In The Decadent Society, Ross Douthat argues that Western society is running out of energy as innovation in technology and ideology slows. Accordingly, much of our politics is degenerating into mere pretense. For instance, a great many “Antifa kids” are really just “playacting their revolution.” If Douthat is right, Biden’s playacted foreign policy certainly fits this pattern.

Another perspective is that Biden’s foreign policy follows the left-wing approach of “liberal internationalism,” which comes with an incorrigible tendency to over-emphasize norms, rhetoric, and diplomacy not backed by hard power. After all, Biden was Vice President when Barack Obama, in what may be his most infamous foreign-policy blunder, took Putin’s word that he would prevent the Syrian regime from using weapons again. Evidently, giving too much weight to mere words is a Democratic tradition.

Still, the simplest explanation is that, in concealing his planed backstabbing of Israel, Biden was simply being his usual, disingenuous self. The octogenarian ran as a moderate, then governed as a radical. Ergo, his whole presidency is based on a deceptive campaign. As Noah Rothman details, Biden has prevaricated not only about whether he would raise taxes on people with annual incomes below $400,000, but also about a slew of other issues related to policy as well as his personal history, some of them amusingly trivial. From day one, his term in office has been defined by deception. Why should his approach to Israel be any different?

Through its habitual dishonesty, the Biden administration supports terrorists who wish to not only Americans, but the whole world killed or subjugated. Mosab Hassan Yousef, whose father co-founded Hamas, warns that the organization’s ultimate goal is to create “a global Islamic state.” This intention can be seen in the statements of Hamas bosses. Notably, the terror group’s then leader, Khaled Meshaal, once enthused: “The day will come, within several years, when this world will change, submitting to the Arab Islamic will, Allah willing.” Biden’s actions put petty politics, liberal ideology, and sheer cowardice before the safety of the world, and every free nation should be fuming at him for it.