Kamala Harris Scores for the United States in Foreign Policy
By Cynthia Efird, Member, Foreign Policy & National Security Task Force
Harry S. Truman once said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” If proof of the wisdom of this remark is needed, just note the strong results racked up by Vice President Harris; and, unfortunately, also the lack of public recognition of her strong contribution to the furtherance of the United States’ security, prosperity and values. Over the months of November and December alone, she has traveled around the world, reaching agreements and understandings that will underpin US security, prosperity, and leadership for decades, while forthrightly confronting and warning those who would challenge a peaceful world future.
In November, Kamala Harris made the third trip of her Vice Presidency to Asia, spending a week in Thailand and the Philippines. According to a CNN report, she demonstrated “her ability to lead… without overstepping her role.” As the US representative at the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ meeting in Bangkok, she prevented the Chinese leader Xi Jinping from dominating the center stage. In numerous bilateral meetings with Presidents, Prime Ministers, and other leaders, she reinforced a Biden Administration theme: the United States is completely committed to the stability and economic health of the region.
When North Korea attempted to disrupt the APEC session by launching a long-range ballistic missile hours before the meeting began, she insisted that her staff quickly assemble a top-level meeting with world-wide media coverage. Sitting at the head of the U-shaped table, she accused North Korea of “brazen violations of multiple UN security resolutions,” and reaffirmed the ironclad commitment of the United States to the Indo-Pacific alliance. No one could miss the almost audible sighs of relief of the other participants at her strong statement of the pro-active US response.
She continued on to the Philippines where she spoke to representatives of the Filipino Coast Guard and local fishery workers at the village of Palawan near the disputed Spratly Islands. She denounced China’s attempt to dominate the South China Sea and announced an agreement to expand a program that temporarily assigns US service personnel to five bases in the Philippines. The Filipino President welcomed the initiative and her strong statement of support for the Mutual Defense Treaty. Local media noted the context: just a few days before, the Chinese Navy had forcibly taken back Chinese rocket debris pulled from the sea by Filipino fishermen.
Vice President Harris never forgets to combine her hard-hitting defense of US interests with support for the US values of gender equality and inclusion. In Manila, she moderated a discussion with women leaders about women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship, concluding with, “Lift up the economic status of women, and all of society benefits.” The press corps that accompanied her on this trip were all women reporters who were given exceptional access. When women fish cleaners at work in Palawan called out, “Hi, Ma’am!” she laughed and agreed with her translator that they were all, “best friends.” And, of course, as the first US Vice President of South Asian ethnicity, she herself is an example of US openness to ability and ambition.
She also represents US leadership in technology, space, and medicine. Immediately after returning from Asia to the United States, in her capacity as the Head of the National Space Council, she took French President Macron to meet with the NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. This visit followed-up Vice President
Harris’ visit to Paris last year, which resulted in several agreements, including a “Comprehensive Dialogue on Space” to advance international rules and norms. The United States also agreed then to join the Space for Climate Observatory, which prepares and responds to climate disasters, formally joining in June 2022. Not only was the Paris visit exceptionally productive, it resulted in a warm relationship between Macron and his wife and VP Harris and her husband. During the current US visit, Macron agreed to work with the United States to launch a satellite for the first global survey of the Earth’s water surface area and accepted, on behalf of France, a new rule that forbid anti-satellite missile testing.
Finally, the Vice President and the Second Gentleman, Doug Emhoff, continue to lead the fight against antisemitism in the United States and abroad. The first week in December, Emhoff hosted 13 Jewish leaders in a discussion of rising hate speech and “painful” Holocaust denialism. The new head of the American Jewish Congress lauded the Biden Administration’s “commitment to act in partnership with the Jewish Community to confront antisemitism in all its forms.” The Vice President and her husband have participated in the symbolic acts of his Jewish heritage, lighting Menorah candles and hosting Passover seders.
After the midterm results were announced, Vice President Harris spoke of “energy, commitment, passion, love of country, and willingness to fight for it” as key US attributes. Judging just by her work and success over the last 2 months, she herself is a great example of all of these values.