Biden Is Not the Awaited Heretical Ideologue
Biden Is Not the Awaited Heretical Ideologue
British leader Winston Churchill spent weeks in the White House with the aim of building a personal relationship with US President Roosevelt and persuading him to join the war against the Nazis and their leader.
As a matter of fact, there was no actual need to garner the amity of the American president, who had already been convinced of the importance of the US playing an external role to protect itself in a changing world that was becoming increasingly dangerous. The only impediment was his internal considerations, as he was worried about the domestic proclivity for isolation and unwillingness to become involved in never-ending international wars. Pearl Harbor provided him with the suitable pretext he had been waiting for, and it is said that Churchill went to bed that night reassured that “we’ve won the war.”
From here, what would later be called the American international order emerged over the rubble of the collapsed European system. The US created an international order in its liberal image, and in this vein, it subdued hostile powers like Germany and Japan and entered the long Cold War with the Soviet Union that ended with the latter’s disintegration, which was followed by studies justifiably celebrating the end of history.
All the presidents who succeeded Roosevelt, Republican and Democrat alike, maintained this order and waged wars or made peace to keep this international order as it had been, because this simultaneously furthered the supreme interests of the US and maintained the most economically prosperous and political stable period the world has seen, whereby the great powers have not clashed in seven decades.
It is for this reason that we saw President Kennedy enter the Vietnam War to fight Soviets who wanted to impose their communist vision on the world and saw Nixon conclude a grand peace deal with China to bring it into that same order, but from capitalism’s door. Before either of them came to power, we saw Eisenhower declaring the “Eisenhower Doctrine” aimed at expanding the US Western camp and garnering new allies (even thwarting the War of 1956 to persuade President Abdel Nasser to join this camp. In a televised interview, Nixon, who had been his vice president at the time, said Eisenhower later regretted this decision).
When George Bush contributed to the effort to liberate Kuwait, he was applying the same principle. Saddam Hussein crossed the line, and we must safeguard order and teach him a lesson. Bush Jr.'s successful but devastating war against Al-Qaeda falls into this context, because terrorist organizations also aspire to rule the world and impose their religious beliefs.
Even President Obama, who had a different worldview, was less enthusiastic about the US led international order and made a deal with Tehran, was nonetheless unable to escape it and saw his forces still in Afghanistan on the day he left office. To his credit, he fought a successful war with drones against the leaders of terrorist organizations, weakening them and ultimately killing their leader, Osama bin Laden.
Then came Trump, who, regardless of the narrative that he has shaken the international system and weakened its military bulwark, NATO, did no such thing. The Trump administration has buried the deadliest terrorists the world has seen in decades, Soleimani and Al-Baghdadi, who had been at the helm of extremist militias whose primary goal is destabilizing the region and the world order. More grandly consequential, he also significantly weakened the Iranian regime and struck important peace deals to fortify this liberal US order that had been launched more than 75 years earlier. That is, despite the internal partisan tweet-war, he did what previous presidents had done, face rivals and conclude peace deals. The goal is one and the same, and NATO has not wavered.
All of this brings us to President-elect Biden, who will do the same and he has reiterated that himself. A realist politician and a steadfast believer in the concept of the liberal order, he will see that his foreign policy’s success hinges on one issue: Will the liberal order be left stronger after his term ends? In a speech in Davos, he called for the defense of the liberal order and presented a historical account of the dismal world that the US had inherited in the aftermath of World War II, how the US had brought the old wars to an end and paved a more just historical path because of allies, international institutions and the enemies whom it had turned into friends who contributed to building and supporting this order at the end.
From Roosevelt to Biden, this is the doctrine that deviating from would be akin to apostasy and a rupture with ancestors’ legacy. Biden, who believes in this doctrine and its political role in US and world history, won’t be the awaited political heretic and ideologue being promoted by talking heads who speak for militias, extremist groups and those who enjoy cooking up fantasies.