Joe Biden's Foreign Policy means there is work to do for staff at home and abroad... never mind the rest of the world

Joe Biden said diplomacy is back in America's foreign policy. Credit: AP

America is back on diplomatic stage according to the new Commander-in-Chief.

Now, at the heart of its foreign policy is diplomacy, for the benefit of the world, for the benefit of the American people. 

This was Foreign Policy Day for the Biden administration - a chance to extend the hand of friendship across borders and put a paternal arm around the shoulders of America’s foreign and diplomatic staff, bruised by four years of a very different style of management. 

President Joe Biden has a big challenge, to re-engage those who work for the United States and those the United States needs to work with. 

The name check of nations gives an indication of just what work has to be done, Burma (note his use of the that name not Myanmar), Russia, China, Afghanistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran.

So too the themes, nuclear power, troop deployment, arms sales, climate, the pandemic, refugees, gender and sexuality as well as cyber security. 

Joe Biden presented both warnings and olive branches in his foreign policy speech. Credit: AP

The warnings were there: "The days of rolling over to Russia are gone."

The olive branches were there: "We’re ready to work with Beijing."

The aspiration was there: "This war has to end,” on Yemen.

And the hope too: “We have shined the lamp of liberty on refugees,” as he announced 125,000 refugees would be offered welcome, up from the 15,000 of the Trump administration. 

They were words for those America must work with, the words for those who work for America were perhaps the most striking, in part for their content, but more striking that they had to be said at all.

A president telling the brightest of his diplomats that he had their back, that he would not target nor politicise them, that he appreciated what they did.

His words speak volumes as to how State Department staff, at home and abroad, feel after four years of the Trump administration.

As one senior diplomat told me after the speech: “It was fine, I guess I’m still feeling so disrespected and abused by Pompeo and his ilk that it’s going to take more than a speech to perk up my spirits. I guess it’s a nice start though.”

President Biden insists he will lead not with an example of America’s power but the power of its example. He will need to demonstrate that at home as well as abroad.