Discussion of President Biden’s age-related infirmity has only accelerated as the 2024 election draws nearer. But this is not the only ailment afflicting the Biden Administration that has grown in salience as we approach November. The administration’s approach to international affairs has become more relevant as the world has become more volatile. Since the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021, global events have taken a turn for the worse. Less than three years later, we are dealing with the largest ground war in Europe since 1945, a major war in the Levant sparked by the worst day for Jews since the Holocaust, and an increasingly belligerent China.

The responses to these affronts to American national interests have been uniformly underwhelming. The essential feature of the administration’s approach to overseas conflicts is weakness. Yet, the profound sense of inaction that characterizes Biden’s foreign policy is in fact not a bug, but a feature. And, as voting nears, the Biden Administration’s continued studied passivity in the face of international crises is no accident.

The Biden administration has been in thrall to the Democratic Party’s progressive activist base since his inauguration. The White House is staffed by progressives, its messaging apparatus caters to leftist causes, and it constantly validates their concerns. The activist base is loud, young, and popular on social media. Their influence in the minds of the Biden team is quite disproportionate to their propensity to vote. A presidency as widely as unpopular as this one, however, cannot afford to alienate any part of their base voters, which is where the foreign policy comes in.

The executive branch’s near-total control over relations with other nations allows it to leverage foreign policy for domestic political gains. In the activist mind, the White House has failed on key promises relating to student debt and climate change, but it can make up for that abroad. The progressive base fully believes that American power in the international arena is a net negative, something which was embraced by the Obama administration with its rhetoric of “leading from behind.” This America-critical perspective has found full flowering with Biden in the Oval Office, at the expense of American allies, prolonging and exacerbating conflicts across the world. While some isolationists wish to limit American involvement abroad to preserve what’s good about America domestically, many leftists share a similar wish but rather in order to contain America’s influence as a fundamentally evil nation.

Biden’s policy from Afghanistan to Ukraine has been driven by a chronic fear of escalation, which has given our foes the upper hand and deterred us from fully protecting our interests. In Afghanistan, the chaotic nature of the withdrawal was largely due to the fact that the White House sought to avoid clashes with the Taliban and took their word in terms of security, a choice that led to the deaths of 13 American servicemembers. With regards to Ukraine, the administration spent 2022 and much of 2023 slow-walking crucial weapons deliveries to Kyiv. The F-16 jets, long-range artillery systems, and Abrams tanks that were delayed for fear of escalation were all eventually delivered; unfortunately, they have seemingly been too late to turn the tide on the battlefield. These choices were not made to best advance American interests, but to avoid upsetting the ‘anti-war’ progressive movement that would rather see the US withdraw from the world than successfully lead it.

This has been no more obvious than in the Biden administration’s approach toward conflict in the Middle East. The initial support for Israel’s war on the Palestinian terror group was steadfast and direct, with carrier groups being sent to the region and strongly worded statements in the operation’s favor. As the conflict has progressed and Hamas has been systematically pushed into a corner, however, the loud progressive rhetoric has overwhelmed the Biden team. The constant drumbeat of ‘genocide’, ‘war crimes’, and ‘civilian casualties’ from the media and the left has made its mark. Now we hear the Biden team echoing these talking points against one of America’s most stalwart allies.

The president called Israel’s response to the Hamas atrocities “over the top,” the Secretary of State stated that the events of 10/7 were not a license to “dehumanize” Palestinians, and the administration has clamored for Israel to reduce civilian casualties, despite Israel’s already-significant efforts. The White House has shifted to an inordinate focus on the provision of humanitarian aid to Gaza – failing to acknowledge the theft of said aid by Hamas – and has even floated the idea of recognizing a Palestinian state in the near future. This has been the administration’s modus operandi regarding the Israeli push into Rafah, one of Hamas’s last redoubts in Gaza. Biden has harangued Israel for a ‘concrete’ plan to ensure the safety of Gazan civilians, while also warning against displacing any of them. This paradoxical rhetoric is meant to slow or halt the necessary Israeli advance, just as Hamas is cornered. It is intended to forestall Israeli victory. And the only audience for it is the White House’s progressive base.

The Biden administration has also exhibited profound weakness in its overblown worry about a wider war with Iran. This seemingly overwhelming phobia has turned the tables on deterrence, making Iran the deterrent and the US the deterred. Our interests have been attacked repeatedly by Iranian-controlled groups across the region, whether it is Houthis going after merchant shipping in the Gulf of Aden or the Islamic Resistance in Iraq killing three American troops in Jordan. These relentless assaults on American vessels and personnel have been met with a tepid response, returning fire only on those who directly fired on us instead of punishing the sponsor of the campaign in Tehran. These strikes have been telegraphed in advance, allowing damage to be limited and Iran to avoid danger.

The lone direct response against Iran was a cyberattack on a spy vessel aiding the Houthis in their targeting of shipping; this pales in comparison to Operation Praying Mantis during the Reagan administration, which restored deterrence by sinking several Iranian vessels. By failing to respond directly to Iran in a disproportionate manner, imposing real costs on Tehran’s aggression, the Biden administration has only incentivized further attacks instead of deterring them. In this case, the White House’s weakness does the opposite of what it is intended to do – stoking a larger conflict instead of foreclosing it.

America deters our enemies by exhibiting strength and resolve on the world stage. This has the added benefit of earning the respect of the American people writ large, who support our allies in their just wars of self-defense. The White House, however, is out of touch with this majority, instead choosing to cater to the whims of a progressive base who see America and our allies as global forces for ill. Biden is sacrificing American power and interests abroad in pursuit of pure electoral gain. In that respect, the weakness is indeed the point.