I COULDN’T help but notice a curious headline on a Washington Post editorial the other day.

“The damage from Pelosi’s unwise Taiwan visit must be contained,” the newspaper intoned. It was of course written in the wake of US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s controversial visit to the island despite advance warnings from the Chinese government that her visit would be seen as an act of “provocation”.

No sooner had Pelosi arrived in the Taiwanese capital Taipei than China, true to its word, announced it was launching what it called “necessary and just” military drills in seas as close as 10 miles from Taiwan.

As the world has long been aware, China has always considered Taiwan part of its territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control.

READ MORE: Liz Truss urges China to de-escalate tensions over Taiwan after Pelosi video

What was curious about the Post’s editorial though was that it did little to question why Pelosi went in the first place at a time when tensions between Washington and Beijing were already dire – by all accounts even US President Joe Biden was not in favour of her visit.

That said, not to be outdone on the foreign policy front this week, Biden himself could barely contain his satisfaction at how “justice had been delivered” after a US drone strike killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, a key planner of the 9/11 attacks.

While few will likely lose any sleep over al-Zawahiri’s demise, his killing right now, just like Pelosi’s Taiwan visit, raises some rather uncomfortable questions with regards to US foreign policy under the Biden administration.

I mean let’s just pause and consider a few facts here and take Pelosi’s visit first. To begin with, there is that question of timing. What possible advantage was there to be gained by baiting hawkish Chinese president Xi Jinping at precisely the moment when he’s seeking a third term in office?

By goading Xi, can Pelosi not see that she has simply driven a further wedge into US -China relations and runs the risk of pushing the Chinese closer to Moscow at a time when the war in Ukraine has given the Americans and West enough of a problem?

Chinese ire was utterly predictable here with even the US military dead against Pelosi’s visit. With no apparent gain, it’s worth noting too that this will not be cost-free for Washington, far from it. Chinese naval drills in the East and South China Seas aside, what’s to stop Beijing getting its own back by freeing up arms sales to Russia?

Some observers, of course, will argue that Pelosi’s visit is not worth bothering about, that the controversy will die down soon enough and all we can likely expect is more bluster from Beijing.

But what if that’s not how things pan out and tensions go from bad to worse and Pelosi’s visit marks a pivotal moment in the further souring of US-China relations?

How can it be that the person third in line to the US presidency simply ignores the concerns of her boss, Biden, and steps on to Taiwanese soil despite advice from US political and military quarters to the contrary?

Pelosi’s dislike of the Chinese regime is well known, which begs the question: if this was not an approved state visit, was it just the act of a self-serving, virtue-signalling US politician seeking attention in the twilight of her political career? If so, then that strikes me as being one hell of a risk to take at the expense of global peace and security.

And speaking of self-serving political acts, what about the obvious timing of the US CIA orchestrated attack on al-Zawahiri which would of course have been authorised by the US commander-in-chief himself, Joe Biden?

Call me cynical, but isn’t it curious how the al-Zawahiri operation comes just weeks before the first anniversary of the US-led forces’ ignominious retreat from Afghanistan that many critics say exposed Biden’s obvious foreign policy shortcomings?

While doing all he could to avoid triumphalism, Biden was clearly pleased with the outcome of the al-Zawahiri strike and doubtless will have one eye on his flagging polls before US midterm elections later this year in November.

There’s no doubt that from an intelligence perspective the precision strike against the al-Qaeda leader ensconced in a safe house in Kabul was a reminder that US intelligence could still be effective in Afghanistan. It gives weight also to US claims of having “over the horizon” capabilities against al-Qaeda and their like. But still, it does little to make up for the massive ineptitude surrounding the botched withdrawal this time last year.

READ MORE: Sri Lanka’s tragedy should be of Scotland’s concern

THERE are those also who will say that the timing of this week’s strike was more than likely determined by an opportune moment afforded by ground-level intelligence gathering, but only the most naive would imagine that this was the only reason or motive behind moving at this precise time.

Clearly the Taliban are still hosting al-Qaeda and while targeting the likes of al-Zawahiri and others in the terror group with drone strikes plays well for Biden back home, it does little to circumvent the fact that talking to the Taliban is at some point a must if the humanitarian situation for ordinary Afghans is to improve in the future. The bottom line here in what we have seen this past week both in terms of Pelosi’s Taiwan visit and Biden’s “timely” ordering of al-Zawahiri’s killing is that US foreign policy currently serves only to bail out or bolster the fortunes of US political leaders at home. There’s no point, as The Washington Post editorial suggests, in “containing” the damage after it’s done when it could simply have been avoided in the first place.

Good diplomacy and foreign policy are often about preparing carefully where and when to stand up to or confront threats and rivals after weighing up the wider global consequences.

Political grandstanding or virtue signalling purely for domestic consumption has little if any part in this process and only makes the world a more dangerous place.