Biden’s First Days in Office

Dolapo Babalola
200-level Medicine & Surgery
University of Ibadan

In the days following the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States of America, his administration has been implanting key policies in a bid to fulfil campaign promises. These key administrative moves and executive orders are worthy of early analysis.

Joe Biden, moments after taking the oath of office, dragged his nation back to the Paris Agreement — an instant reversal of Trump’s administration’s key policy action. He kept to his campaign promise, and he should, at least, be commended for it. However, his view on the risk of climate change is pure alarmism. He considers climate change “an existential threat to our communities, economy, national security and environment”. And such worrisome alarmism is also espoused by his non-partisan cronies, such as Bill Gates. From an economic standpoint, the total possible climate change effect is expected to be an equivalent of 2% income reduction by 2070,  as reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Considering the foregoing, it is doubtful that Joe Biden consulted the gold standard of sources of climate change facts. His existential threat is all smoke with no fire. Furthermore, Donald Trump pulled out from the Paris Agreement for concrete and understandable reasons. The financial commitment to meet up with the terms is quite expensive, inefficient and unsustainable — $500 billion each year, translating to $1500 per US citizen, is a lot. According to a survey by a researcher from Yale University published in the journal, Environmental Research Letters, Americans are willing to pay nothing more than $177 each year as carbon tax, contrary to the financial cost of the Paris Agreement in its present form. By the IPCC’s figures, compliance with the agreement will cause nations, including the US, a 16% loss in Gross Domestic Product each year for a 0.05C reduction in global temperature. Who intends to spend more for less value? Joe Biden.

The withdrawal of the remaining 2500 United States troops in Afghanistan is a hot debate. Perhaps confident of his second term in the presidency, Donald Trump assented to a peace deal to withdraw the remaining US troops from Afghanistan on 1st May 2021. When did the United States start negotiating with terrorists? In truth, it turns out that the US is losing out on the 20-year-long war — rejection of this fact would be self-deception by the US government. Despite all the efforts over the years, the Taliban has encroached upon more Afghan territories than they did in 2001. This failure is costing the US government taxpayers’ money. Consequently, the peace deal with the group was deemed needed by the previous administration. Looking forward, the Taliban has a propensity to keep killing innocent Afghans, make life miserable for women and children, overturn the Afghan government yet again and also continue their pact with Al-Qaeda as its operations arm. Should Joe Biden still go on with the Trump–Taliban peace deal? The Taliban has been flexing its muscle on the remaining troops and the US military risks the needless death of troops beyond 1st May. Would an extension of the deadline be advisable? Lastly, because the US has not yet proven the capacity to win the war, should she default on the deadline and continue the war indefinitely? 1st May is a few days away. Joe Biden is now left to choose between the devil, the deep blue sea and the erupting volcano — a trichotomous dilemma. We hope he decides on the least bad, in the best interest of both parties. 

The Iran nuclear deal in its entirety is flawed, and the fault in the deal is visible to the blind and audible to the deaf. The restriction placed on nuclear material enrichment and possession of the nuclear setup is definite, and Iran can continue acquiring lethal weapons after 2025. The agreement does not put Iran’s nuclear site and activities up for thorough and on-demand inspection. It allows Tehran to keep the nuclear enrichment facility which could be put back into action after the deal expires — a threat to the US and her allies in the region, and the world by extension; and a potent tool with which to negotiate more economic leverage beyond 2025. It is no agreement at all, and as expected of a faulty deal, despite its multilateral nature, Iran has flouted key parts of the deal in recent years. Iran has publicly confirmed further Uranium enrichment in an undisclosed location, and in 2020, the US Treasury Department had to sanction the Central Bank of Iran after confirmed evidence of terror financing. Iran wishes to have her cake and eat it, and backing out of the shady agreement, Trump had resumed the economic sanctions on Iran. A review of the agreement or an entirely new one is highly recommended — as opposed to immediate re-entry into the deal. Sadly enough, Joe Biden is considering re-entering the deal and is on the verge of doing so — a drum he has been beating since his campaign days. Sadly!

Joe Biden has not done much as regards foreign policy to  Africa, but we can do with predictions and recommendations here. At the least, we hope he doesn’t neglect the office of the Secretary of State to Africa for too long and shithole-tag the entire continent like his predecessor did. Retrospectively, a keen observer of the US foreign policy will effortlessly see through Biden’s foreign policy to Africa, as nothing but the long-standing agenda of the US’s self-interest — counterterrorism by blind military support, financial influence on foreign politics, disruption of the political and economic layout of the continent. The antecedents say a lot. The US military intervention in Africa by the Obama-Biden administration was non-prodemocracy, and it bred authoritarian leaders on the continent. For instance, the US government gave the Ugandan government $106 million in 2016 to equip the military to fight against terrorism at a time close to elections. Expectedly, the fund was ‘judiciously’ used to repress the opposition party. If Biden plans to promote democracy and fight terrorism through military intervention, how productive will it be in four years?

Furthermore, several Democratic administrations, including Obama-Biden’s, have covertly mounted political pressure on African governments to allow free trade. This was done on the grounds that an empowered middle class can fight undemocratic leaders. But natural resources we have, and they have attracted foreign buyers who see Africa as a land of extraction. And greedy and unpatriotic would-be elites we have, who subscribe to selling state resources, such as crude oil and steel, to countries that will pamper them with tax cuts. Between 2010 and 2012, for example, the Democratic Republic of the Congo reportedly lost over $1.36 billion from the under-pricing of mining assets that were sold to offshore companies. And what are the results of privatization of state capital assets and laissez-faire? Overnight and under-the-carpet billionaires. Disturbingly high levels of poverty and inequality. Governments incapable of single-handedly and promptly protecting their citizens in critical times such as Ebola and COVID-19 crises; governments that have to rely, instead, on inadequate foreign aid and donations. 

In a rapidly evolving world, the political space and demographic statistics have changed in Africa. Well-informed Africans at home and in the diaspora decry US military intervention, foreign aid and an increase in enabled billionaires. Consequently, it seems the continent has opened its arms to the likes of China. In contrast to the US, China has, over the years, invested directly in Africa governments through loans amounting to $143 billion so far. And unlike the US administration that could force human rights on Africans, China has no gay rights or the sort to threaten foreign aid sanctions with; China would rather gain soft power through their growing Confucius centres across the continent. Neither will China force communism on Africa (at least not now). However, the intention of China in the race for world power is questionable as she is also a culprit in Africa’s capital lift and provision of tax havens. Nonetheless, the US influence in Africa may melt away, like a snowman abandoned in the sun, if Biden’s proposed modus operandi in dealing with Africa stays. Perhaps, Biden’s foreign policy for Africa needs a revision.

Joe Biden has been fulfilling his campaign promises since he assumed office, most of which have been reversals of Trump’s decisions. The outcomes of the ones he is yet to act on are somewhat predictable, and we hope his moves are well thought out. The world is watching.

P. S.
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