Once Again President Biden Goes off Script, Once Again he Escalates Tensions
While never celebrated as an ordained arbiter of the English language, Biden's verbal slip-ups are particularly dangerous now as he is the de-facto speaker on behalf of the world's largest military.
If one were to compile an extensive list of all the things Joe Biden has been labeled by colleagues, political opponents and members of the press over his half-century in public office, it is surely safe to say that “articulate speaker” would be absent from such a collection.
Monday afternoon, the president held a private meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and then answered questions from members of both the Japanese and American media. Given the United States’ escalating role in Russia’s war against Ukraine through endless economic and military support, and the known ambitions of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders to eventually take over the small island nation of Taiwan that rests approximately 100 miles from China’s coast, a reporter posed to President Biden if he was “willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?” after initially juxtaposing the question by bringing up Biden’s desire to not get directly militarily involved in Ukraine (which was absolutely the correct decision). Biden’s response was a surprisingly straightforward “yes”. When the reporter followed up with “you are?” President Biden declared that military intervention on Taiwan’s behalf was “the commitment [the United States] made”.
This was a strikingly unexpected statement from the commander in chief of the world’s largest military. For decades and throughout a multitude of different administrations, the United States has employed a strategy of intentional vagueness regarding what its official response would be in the result of a theoretical Chinese attack on Taiwan. According to the New York Times, Biden’s blunt response “surprised some members of [his] own administration watching in the room, who did not expect him to promise such unvarnished resolve”.
The White House quickly worked to clean-up the diplomatic mess that President Biden could have just created, with staffers quickly releasing and distributing a statement to members of the press specifically saying that the United States’ official policy regarding the relationship between China and Taiwan “has not changed” and that the president was simply reiterating the United States’ “commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait”.
Despite the actions of the unnamed administration officials who are tasked with constantly correcting the rhetorical shortcomings of their boss, Biden’s words reached the ears of world leaders who chose to respond. The Taiwanese government, unsurprisingly, put out a statement shortly after the conclusion of Biden and Kishida’s press briefing, thanking our president for his “rock-solid commitment to Taiwan”. Adversarially, Wang Wenbin, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, told his country’s state-run media that China has “no room for compromise” regarding its “sovereignty, territorial integrity and other core interests”.
While it is unlikely that today’s off-the-cuff remark from President Biden will have any drastic or unimaginable negative consequences, the president’s tendency to ignore the will of his own administrative circle and simply verbally espouse things that are not tied to any official United States’ policy is extremely dangerous and something that has been put on example more than just one or two times since he has taken up the role of commander in chief.
On the subject of Taiwan, the president’s back and forth with the media in Tokyo was actually the third time he has aggressively verbally committed to Taiwanese welfare to an extent greater than what the United States’ official position currently holds as outstanding policy. In August of 2021, before the infamous debacle that was the withdrawal from Afghanistan, President Biden gave a speech addressing global threats and declared that the United States would effectively respond if a NATO nation were to be attacked by an adversarial power or fighting force. He then quickly added “same with Japan, same with South Korea, same with Taiwan”, which was seen as unusual to foreign policy experts as Taiwan does not have the same codified security agreements with the United States that Japan or South Korea have, let alone NATO.
Two months later, during a CNN-hosted town hall, President Biden was asked if he would authorize the military to protect Taiwan from an attack. To which he responded “Yes, we have a commitment to do that”. This remark, much like the one today, set off a panic-infused frenzy within the White House, who quickly clarified to the rest of the world through a publicized statement that the president “was not announcing any change in [United States] policy and there is no change in [United States] policy”.
Although Taiwan was the focus of Biden’s misdirected verbal espousements today, it is also important to not forget the extremely loose rhetorical slip-ups he suffered through when speaking about the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. As I discussed in the aftermath of their occurrences, the president, when speaking to dozens of United States troops stationed in Poland, described how numerous Ukrainian civilians were displaying great bravery by resisting Russian forces and then told the brave men and women circled around him that they will see what he is speaking of “when [they] get there”. That sounded very much like a pre-emptive announcement that United States troops would be entering Ukraine and therefore engaging in direct conflict with Russian forces, which most certainly would spark a larger and potentially apocalyptic war between Russia and the United States.
The following day, when addressing the world in a globally televised speech from Warsaw, Poland, Biden decided to abruptly go off script in the finale and declare that “for God’s sake, [Putin] cannot remain in power”. That statement, which sounded like a brazen call for regime change in Russia, which would require either a successful assassination plot or a full-blown military overthrow of the Russian government, was immediately met with a response from the Kremlin. Dmitry Peskov, a member of Putin’s inner circle, called what Biden had said “alarming”, and assured that Russia will “keep a close eye on the US president’s statements” and will continue to “take note of them” moving forward.
Just as Biden’s irresponsible rhetoric had to be swiftly corrected regarding his out-of-the-blue remarks about American policy towards Taiwan, thankfully the adults in the room, at least the people in this administration relatively deserving of that title relative to their boss, quickly moved in to clean up the potential geopolitical mess that the president could have caused. Following his assurance to our troops stationed in Poland that they will “see when they get there”, a White House spokesperson immediately told the New York Post that the United States is maintaining the position of keeping troops out of Ukraine. After Biden’s remark the next night which sounded like a call for regime change, the White House claimed that the president was referring to Putin not being permitted to exercise power over neighboring countries, but “was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change.”
President Biden has only held his current position for under two years, and he has already performed an entire handful of verbal slip ups that have unnecessarily heightened international tensions. All of these incidents should have been completely avoidable. While Joe Biden was never the most precise speaker, and in fact was always infamous for uttering moronic things - calling the Affordable Care Act’s passing a “big fucking deal” on a hot microphone, telling a well-known African American YouTube host that undecided black voters “ain’t black”, and countless more examples - his tendncy to employ either inaccurate or extremely unhinged language at the most dangerous of times is no longer a laughing or lackadiscally critiquable matter.
The notion of words having consequences is one that even adolescents can understand, and is a sentiment that is true even in very basic personal interactions with human beings. We must hope that the President of the United States, or at least the handlers who are tasked with guiding him through his every action and public appearance on a day-to-day basis, learn to understand that as well.
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