Ten months later the war is still raging, but the Biden doctrine is drawing praise. Our correspondent in Washington, Nathan Guttman, in a special column for “the year abroad” – the news log summing up 2022 for Kan Network “B.”
As in the film “Back to the Future,” Joe Biden and the U.S. also found themselves going back in time this year, once again facing ghosts from the past along with the challenges that appeared to have already passed from the world.
More than 30 years later, it has become suddenly clear that the conflict between the superpowers is still alive and kicking – again it’s the U.S. versus Russia. Biden, an older president who entered office attempting to stabilize America, has now encountered a test: How to deal with the Russian bully? The choices were all bad: compromise and disregard, such as the type the U.S. chose and thus allowed Vladimir Putin to invade Crimea in the past; all-out war to force Russia out of Ukraine or a cautious policy. Biden chose the third option and succeeded.
The U.S. approach espouses massive support to Ukraine in amounts not previously seen by recruiting the Western world to pressure Russia, and all this without crossing the one single red line – sending American soldiers to the front.
Ten months later, the war is still raging, but the Biden doctrine has drawn praise: The West is again united, Putin is showing limits to his power and the U.S. has returned to a position of leadership. The U.S. has gained the respect of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who visited the U.S. at the end of the year, and it has gained the support of the West.
But success has come with a heavy price. The boycott on Russia has caused a jump in fuel prices, which has added to an economy that was still having difficulty recovering from COVID-19, and together with this, America was reminded of a blast from the distant past: inflation. This economic blow is being felt in every American pocket, and only Americans who lived through the 1980s still remember its horrors. The struggle has been difficult. Biden was forced to denigrate himself before the Saudis, who responded by giving him the middle finger, and he saw a drop in support by Americans who suddenly had difficulty making it through the month. The U.S. is finishing the year with a more optimistic tone. The Federal Reserve took aggressive steps, raising interest rates to rein in inflation. Fuel prices have dropped to levels not seen since before the war in Ukraine, and unemployment is at a low.
In Washington, there has been a sigh of relief. The economy, perhaps, is recovering, but America is more divided than ever. A decision by the Supreme Court in May has reignited a culture war, which is more ferocious than ever. The conservative-leaning Supreme Court nullified the ruling recognizing the right of women to have abortions. A decades-long struggle ended with a victory by the conservatives and the Christian right. The decision sent shock waves through American society. Liberals, Democrats, and many women felt the America they had known was disappearing. The trauma of Jan. 6 and the threat against democracy is still fresh, and now even the Supreme Court has turned its back.
The months since the Supreme Court ruling have taught us that this perhaps is a Pyrrhic victory for the conservatives. The left has united, and there are those on the moderate right who felt that they might have gone too far. And it all came to a head one night in November.
The midterm elections provided the surprise of the year. It was supposed to be a blow against Biden and the Democrats, but as the votes were counted, it became clear that the defeat was relatively light: The Democrats lost the majority in the House of Representatives but kept the Senate. The party of Biden, a president leading America with a low support rating in a period of record inflation, succeeded well in surviving; in fact, much better than many sitting presidents in the past.
The failure was for the man who never agreed to accept the previous election results, Donald Trump. This was supposed to be Trump’s year. He announced he was running again for president and hit the road to support his chosen candidates running in dozens of midterm election races. Almost all of them lost. Trump’s status as the undisputed king of his party has been undermined. The investigations began to close in around him: from the secret documents that he took to his home in Mar-a-Lago to the business entanglements in New York, and including his part in the Jan. 6 riot and attempts to overturn the election results.
Next year will be decisive for these two elderly white men who want to lead America: Biden, the tragic hero who has made gains but has received no empathy, must decide whether to run for the presidency again at the age of 82. Trump will try to see if the Republican body politic is still behind him, after and despite it all. A struggle between two very different figures for the leadership of a very divided nation.