The new US president faces a series of intractable foreign policy problems that won’t be solved by signing executive orders

Joe BidenPresident Joe Biden at work in the Oval Office. The difficulty with his ‘blizzard of executive orders is that they are postures, not policies’. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

Those who remember Joe Biden as a senator who preferred compromise to confrontation may have been surprised by his first hectic days as president. Biden offered a stiff finger to the leaders of China and Russia, kicked the stool from under cosy Trump-era relationships in the Gulf, fired a shot across Israel’s bows, and propelled the international climate crisis to centre stage. This is fighting talk.

The difficulty with Biden’s blizzard of executive orders is that they are postures, not policies, mainly intended to overturn or freeze the most damaging aspects of Donald Trump’s legacy. There is no sign yet of long-term answers to the complex global questions Biden identifies. This is less Truman Doctrine, more feelgood attitudinising. Declaring the “US is back” is easy. New ideas are harder.