Biden knows that if we can’t control COVID, revive our economy, deal with racial injustice and ensure our democracy, we'll be weaker on the world stage.


The assassination of the scientist considered the father of Iran’s nuclear weapons program underscores the tremendous foreign policy challenges facing the incoming Biden-Harris administration. The Will this make life better, easier, safer for families across this country?” Biden's message, that “economic security is national security,” is in good hands with Sullivan, who worked on both economic and foreign policy during the Biden campaign.

Biden said his goals are to “win the competition for the future that we need to keep us safe and secure. ... We need to invest in our people, sharpen our innovative edge, unite the economic might of democracies around the world to grow the middle class.” And growing the middle class includes not starting pointless trade wars that hurt American consumers, companies and farmers. 

Climate change is a security threat 

The president-elect wants a foreign policy that looks to the future, not the past. He knows that 2021 is not 2016, 2012 or 2008. Biden rightly stated that “we cannot meet these challenges with old thinking or unchanged habits.” His decision to name former Secretary of State John Kerry as a special presidential envoy for climate speaks to the future.

Virtually everything about our national security, in the years ahead, will be touched by climate change. The COVID-19 pandemic is a forerunner of other bio threats that will emerge as our warming ecosystem changes. Our immigration and migration challenges will grow as climate migrants leave hotter, dryer and lower sea level lands. At the same time, the opportunities for new jobs will grow as well.

Kerry, in his remarks, noted that meeting the climate goals also “means creating millions of middle-class jobs.”

A Biden foreign policy means, as Biden says, “America is strongest when it works with its allies.” America is ready to sit at the head of the table, knowing there will be more nations sitting and working at that table. America is ready to lead, but to do so with humility. 

If there is a slogan for this foreign policy, it is the president-elect’s often used watchwords: “America leads not only by the example of our power but by the power of our example.” Biden understands that if we can’t get our own act together — get control of the pandemic, revive our economy, deal with racial injustice and disparities, ensure our democracy — we will be weaker on the world stage to protect our interests.

Leaderless at the White House: @WendyRSherman), a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors, is a professor of practice at Harvard Kennedy School, director of its Center for Public Leadership and of “Not for the Faint of Heart: Lessons in Courage, Power and Persistence." She was undersecretary of State for political affairs from 2011-15 and led U.S. negotiations on the Iran nuclear deal.

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