COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Under a blazing sun, Vice President Joe Biden challenged graduating Air Force Academy cadets on Wednesday to help create a “new world order for the 21st century.”
Biden called on images from the end of World War II, part of a White House push to burnish a foreign policy that has been challenged by Russian aggression and continued trouble from North Africa to Afghanistan.
“I believe we and mainly you have an incredible opportunity to lead in shaping a new world order for the 21st century in a way consistent with American interests and common interests,” Biden said before shaking hands with 995 members of the class of 2014.
The reference to a “new world order” echoed a similar goal set by President George Bush after the collapse of European communism.
Biden described the new order as a world that seeks human rights, free trade and an end to poverty and oppression.
“First and foremost our work begins by rebuilding America’s foundations, our economic foundations, our moral and strategic foundations,” he told cadets.
That work, Biden said, won’t see America leave the world stage.
“One thing we know, if America isn’t on the field, the vacuum will be filled,” Biden told cadets and a crowd of more than 22,000 people in Falcon Stadium.
Biden described administration plans to leave almost 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after combat operations end on Dec. 31. And, according to Biden, those troops will have the responsibility of tracking down the remnants of al-Qaida.
The Afghan government hasn’t signed off on a continued U.S. troop presence after a United Nations mandate for the U.S. mission there expires on Dec. 31.
Biden said he understands those who want all U.S. forces home and said those feelings are similar to sentiments following the end of World War II.
“There was an overwhelming desire of our grandparents and my parent’s generation to bring home every single one of the 12 million forces stationed in Europe and Asia,” he said.
The continued military presence abroad after World War II, though, served a high purpose, he said.
“They knew they had to lay a foundation for a new world order, an order that brought the longest period of sustained and peace in Europe and Asia,” he said.
Biden made several references to Russian aggression, restating a U.S. guarantee of a democratic Ukraine.
He also decried “the use of corruption and oligarchs as a sinister tool of foreign policy,” but did not mention Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Biden said the nation must turn its focus to the Pacific. In that, the Democrat, praised China as a friend and trade partner, but also said it hasn’t captured America’s ability to innovate.
Biden got a smattering of applause during the policy portion of his speech, and shouts and cheers when he praised cadets.
“You are Falcons and you carry America on your back,” he said, rallying a crowd that sweltered in the sun and 80-degree temperatures in Falcon Stadium. “And America will have your back forever.”
Senior Cadet Charles Lewis of Colorado Springs wasn’t thinking about Biden’s speech so much as getting a diploma and shaking Biden’s hand.
“It’s great to finally make it through,” Lewis said. “It’s the culminating thing, and then I’m finally done,” Lewis said.