Analysis: Biden starts to execute on policies Trump abandoned by crossing off another campaign promise
Apr 15, 2021 3 mins, 22 secs

With his new vow Wednesday to get troops home from Afghanistan and his big legislative proposals that elevate the working class, including a $2 trillion infrastructure bill, Biden is eying achievements his predecessor talked up but failed to accomplish.

Biden, like Trump and President Barack Obama before him, ran for office on a platform of extricating Americans from quagmires, spending the trillions such wars cost here at home and restoring economic fairness.

While the previous two presidents made progress in various ways toward those goals, the current commander-in-chief has put them at the heart of everything he does.

Lindsey Graham, for example, said Biden was canceling "an insurance policy" that "would prevent another 9/11." But the President's action was largely aligned with public sentiment nearly 20 years after the 9/11 attacks.

In harsh terms before he ran for the White House, Trump called the war in Afghanistan "a complete waste" on Twitter and voiced his disapproval for "wasted lives" in the conflict.

On the campaign trail in 2020, he often noted with pride that he had argued against Obama's surge of troops to Afghanistan in favor of a smaller, more nimble footprint focused on counterterrorism, and said he strongly opposed the "nation-building" strategy that the US had adopted in Afghanistan.

Never losing sight of the audience that he needed to win the presidency, he also spoke of shaping a foreign policy that aimed to bolster America's middle class by sharpening the competitive edge of the US against China and other foreign powers.

"Staying entrenched in unwinnable conflicts drains our capacity to lead on other issues that require our attention," Biden wrote in the March/April 2020 issue of "Foreign Affairs," "and it prevents us from rebuilding the other instruments of American power."

Biden's Afghanistan decision carries risk

When he stood on exactly the spot Wednesday in the White House Treaty Room where President George W.

A 2019 Pew survey found that 59% of American adults said the war in Afghanistan was not worth fighting, and a stunning 58% of US veterans said the same.

On Wednesday, the President announced that all US and allied troops will leave by the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks in five months time.

'Not now?' -- that's how we got here," Biden said.

He emphasized that the US will not conduct a "hasty rush to the exit," but rather would draw down troops "responsibly, deliberately and safely" and focus on reorganizing the nation's counterterrorism capabilities and assets in the region to "prevent reemergence of terrorists -- of the threat to our homeland from over the horizon."

But Biden argued that it is time to "focus on the challenges that are in front of us," at a time when "terrorist networks and operations have spread far beyond Afghanistan since 9/11." Part of that work, he said, is shoring up "American competitiveness to meet the stiff competition we're facing from an increasingly assertive China."

"We'll be much more formidable to our adversaries and competitors over the long term if we fight the battles for the next 20 years, not the last 20," the President said.

Those arguments about strengthening and repositioning America to lead on the world stage have been at the center of Biden's agenda throughout his brief presidency, particularly in the Covid relief package and his $2 trillion infrastructure bill.

Trump also talked about the need for a sharper competitive edge, and his supporters would argue that he handsomely honored his campaign promise to alleviate the suffering of many of the Midwestern Americans whose jobs disappeared in decades of post-industrial globalization.

Americans clearly aren't sold yet on Biden's infrastructure proposal -- a Quinnipiac poll on Wednesday said a plurality (44%) support it and 38% do not -- but a sizable portion of voters (19%) said they were still making up their minds.

By contrast, "Infrastructure week" was a perennial punchline in Trump's chaotic White House as the ex-President never managed to stay sufficiently focused to make progress on the one issue on which Democrats might have joined him.

So far, the difference between the last administration and this one has been the ability to execute.


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