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‘America first’ again? Is Biden echoing Trump on Afghanistan and vaccines?



For Donald Trump, the former US president, beating the drum of “America first” was something of an obsession. “The future doesn’t belong to the globalists,” he once told the UN. “The future belongs to patriots.”

Last year, he was rejected by voters in favour of Joe Biden, a committed internationalist who vowed: “America is back.” Yet the past week has shaken the faith of old allies and led some to question whether a strain of the “America first” mantra lives on.

In a speech this week, a defiant Biden expressed no regret for America’s chaotic and humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan, which was quickly overrun by the Taliban, putting thousands of Afghans who worked for US forces in danger and wiping out human rights gains for millions of women and girls.

Related: White House backtracks after Biden appears to say US would defend Taiwan against China 

The president insisted that he was following the will of the American people and could not justify spending more American blood and treasure. His attempt to blame the Afghan national army for lacking the will to fight was described as “shameful” by the British politician Tom Tugendhat, who served as an army officer in Afghanistan.

On Wednesday, turning to the coronavirus pandemic, Biden announced that Americans who had received two vaccine doses would be eligible for a third to combat waning immunity, the highly contagious Delta variant and the threat of widespread vaccine hesitancy. There was another global backlash.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for a moratorium on booster jabs until the end of next month, contending that people yet to receive a single dose should take priority. Tom Hart, acting chief executive of the One campaign, told the Associated Press last month: “The idea that a healthy, vaccinated person can get a booster shot before a nurse or grandmother in South Africa can get a single jab is outrageous.”

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