A “foreign policy for the middle class” and centering human rights collide in the Middle East.

By Jonathan Guyer, Vox

As the average national gas price topped $5 a gallon, the White House formally announced that President Joe Biden, in a significant policy turnaround, would be traveling to Saudi Arabia.

On the campaign trail, Biden had called the oil-rich kingdom a “pariah” in response to US intelligence groups’ conclusion that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz ordered the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Though the US relationship with Saudi Arabia teetered along in the background, Biden had resisted directly meeting MBS. But July 13-16, he’ll travel to the Middle East. He’ll visit the Saudi city of Jeddah and meet about 10 Arab heads of state and travel to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.

high gas prices

Biden’s decision to go to Saudi Arabia in July as part of his first Middle East trip as president reveals the tensions at the heart of his foreign policy.

So far, there have been two foreign policy bumper stickers of his administration. The first: putting human rights at the center of foreign policy. As the US has put its diplomatic power into supporting Ukraine, Biden and his team lately have framed the issue more as supporting democracies versus autocracies.

The second bumper sticker is a foreign policy for the middle class, which feels like the international counterpart to Build Back Better. The idea, which Biden had put forth when campaigning, is that foreign policy is too often divorced from the daily lives of Americans in the heartland, and that what the US does abroad should work for them.

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