The biggest foreign policy losers of 2023

From the Biden team and humanity to our wrongheaded TV generals, this was a year of catastrophe and political failure.

From the Biden team and humanity to our wrongheaded TV generals, this was a year of catastrophe and political failure. The year in foreign policy was marked by bloody conflict, humanitarian catastrophe, and grief, plus political failures and missteps. Let’s take a look at the most notable ones as we approach 2024, writes ‘The Responsible Statecraft’.

Losers in major conflicts and geopolitical shifts.

Ukraine: The failure of its counteroffensive in the spring and the summer of 2023 has led in part to a loss in confidence that the country can ever hope to expunge the Russians from all of its territories. This of course has been not only the goal of President Volodymyr Zelensky, but of his Western supporters. Many of those allies, including the mainstream press, are now suggesting that not only will Ukraine have to find a way to end the war diplomatically — which critics including contributors at RS and at the Quincy Institute have been saying all along — but may have to make territorial compromises.

The goal of Ukrainian NATO membership seems like a faraway dream now, and as of the end of the year, the flood of weapons and money from Washington and Western capitals has slowed immensely. Zelensky, now being pegged as increasingly isolated and unrealistic, has seemingly fallen from grace. Unfortunately for him, this is not the first time in U.S. foreign policy history that Washington has turned its favor elsewhere, to the grave detriment of its former beneficiaries.

Israel, and the Palestinian people: The government of Israel, blind-sighted by a brutal Hamas attack that left 1200 Israelis dead and 240 hostages whisked away on Oct. 7, has retaliated with such force in Gaza strip that it is squandering much of the rest of the world’s goodwill and sympathy. Israelis, as wracked by grief and anger as they are, are not confident that their government has a plan for Gaza after the war, but are steadfast (at least according to polls) that the Netanyahu regime can destroy Hamas, and that care to avoid Palestinian civilian suffering should not be a consideration in executing that.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian death toll in Gaza as of this week was well over 21,000. Israel claims to have killed 7,000 Hamas fighters but, according to the New York Times, does not explain how it came to that number. This has created a situation in which Israel (and its U.S. supporters) are increasingly isolated, whether it be at the United Nations or in public opinion across the globe. Furthermore, the Palestinians in Gaza are suffering from catastrophic hunger and a lack of healthcare (there are reportedly no functioning hospitals left in northern Gaza). Nearly 90% have been displaced due to Israeli military bombardments, and infectious diseases are ripping through the traumatized population.

Joe Biden: The president of the United States has been backed into a corner on two major fronts this year. On Ukraine, his framing of the war as a Manichaean battle — and a struggle for freedom that will have global repercussions if America doesn’t help Zelensky “for as along as it takes” — is coming back to bite his administration. Calls are increasing to begin diplomatic talks in earnest with a government that Washington had relegated to Hitler-like status. Meanwhile, Congress is pushing back on giving Ukraine the billions more in weapons and cash it needs to survive.

Biden’s team looks indecisive and vulnerable as it moves into what promises to be a brutal re-election. This has only been compounded by the administration’s complete inability to rein in the military excesses of the Israeli government in Gaza and the West Bank too.

Biden has also greased the skids for all the weapons the Israelis have asked for, with American-made “dumb bombs” responsible for the multitude of deaths and property destruction in the Gaza strip today. Not only is Washington viewed as having no influence over the Israelis (despite the enormous sums of money and weapons sent there annually); it looks duplicitous when it comes to grand assertions about upholding the “rules-based order.”

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