Biden says “America is back” at the top of the table – but is that a good thing? | American foreign policy

For most of the world’s diplomats, Joe Biden’s “America is back” foreign policy slogan is not a metaphor.

On global issues ranging from climate change, non-proliferation, and human rights, the United States literally collected its papers and pens under the Trump administration and left the negotiator. Biden’s election victory and the election of committed internationalists to lead the foreign policy team means that someone will indeed be sitting in an empty chair.

“It is a great relief that we have to deal with a much more normal US,” said Richard Gowan, UN director at the International Crisis Group. “In recent years, it has been a symptom of American diplomacy that other countries have really struggled to get a clear picture of what U.S. policy is at times on issues like Libya or Yemen.”

According to Gowan, with Biden’s victory on the world stage, one of the many clear winners is UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who for four years sought to please Donald Trump to prevent the outgoing president from completely removing the plug from U.S. involvement in the United States. and funding for UN agencies.

“There is a lot of talk now that Guterres is preparing to come up with a lot of great ideas next year about fighting inequality, stepping up the fight against climate change, and really trying to put the UN back at the center of the global debate.”

The arrival of a comprehensive slogan such as “America is back” worldwide will inevitably be a Rorschach test for the “real America” that has been missing for the past four years.

In European liberal democracies, the general expectation and expectation of Biden’s language and behavior is that the restored America contains the best qualities of the past — with the addition of added humility.

“America is back” means something quite different than if George W Bush had said it, or if Obama had said it in context, “said Constanze Stelzenmüller of the Brookings Institution’s American and European headquarters.” And that means it’s a different kind. America is not a violent America, at any cost, but one that assesses its potential and limits of power very soberly. “

The clear lack of U.S. conventional support for the adventurousism inherent in foreign aid – which Trump actually mediated – the failures in Libya, Yemen, and Syria, and the loss of relative power and prestige over the past four years suggest the country is returning to the world a repressed America.

“I think Obama was still able to assume that America has almost unlimited power and can therefore make sovereign decisions about international involvement and how it treated authoritarian rivals,” Stelzenmüller said. “I think the huge difference with this administration will be a clear understanding of the constraints – domestic and foreign. And this represents a whole new value for the Allies and also gives great power to the Allies. “

Some leaders and governments were clearly pleased with America, which was evident in the Trump era – none other than the Gulf rulers and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They are now working on a common cause to prevent the United States from returning to pre-Trump policy, especially the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

“Many of these systems are extremely fond of the Trump administration, for a variety of reasons,” said Khaled Elgindy, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute. “Obviously, one issue is posture towards Iran, but the laissez-faire attitude towards human rights and the rule of law is another reason why I think many such authoritarianists will miss the Donald Trump era very much.”

It is not just the autocracies of the world who are afraid of the slogan “America is back”. For some older critics of U.S. foreign policy, the idea of ​​a golden age to which the next administration can return is a delusion.

For these skeptics, much depends on whether the Obama-era familiar-faced Biden foreign policy team seeks recovery or fundamental rethinking.

“I think the big question – given that Biden is fundamentally rebuilding the Obama ensemble – has they learned anything from the previous eight years that were in their power, which in many ways wasn’t an impressive success?” asked Stephen Walt, a professor of international affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

“Has they gained a greater sense of realism about what American foreign policy can accomplish and what American power can do?”