The Irish Times view on the change of US president: Longing for a vanished world

To believe that Biden will oversee the restoration of the status quo ante is wishful thinking

Joe Biden. Photograph: Getty

Joe Biden. Photograph: Getty

 

It’s a remarkable indictment of a disgraceful presidency that Donald Trump’s loss of power will be mourned chiefly by the world’s autocrats. In Trump they found a sympathiser, an apologist and an enabler as eager as they were to trash democratic values and upend the liberal order. Conversely, Trump’s departure from office, and his replacement with Joe Biden, will come as an immense relief to America’s traditional allies, who struggled to adjust to a world in which Washington relinquished its leadership position and treated its oldest friends as hostile rivals.

Biden will find he has more space to make a mark in foreign affairs, where a US president is less constrained by the Senate, than in domestic policy, where Republican control of the upper house could produce gridlock. In Biden, America’s allies will have a lifelong internationalist keen to mend broken relationships. The tone will shift overnight, and some policy changes will not be far behind.

he world has changed since 2016. Trump’s protectionist, nativist creed, America First, has lost little of its attraction for millions of Americans

Washington is likely to recommit to the Paris climate agreement and to seek to rebuild the Iran nuclear deal. It would rejoin the World Health Organisation. European capitals will expect a Biden White House to take a tougher line on Russia and Turkey as well as on those EU states, Hungary and Poland, where the rule of law is under strain. They will hope that Trump’s defeat will arrest the momentum of the global far-right by depriving it of a figurehead.

Biden’s victory will be greeted with unconcealed glee in the Irish Government, which can expect warm relations with this proud Irish-American. That his relationship with the Conservative government in Britain will be prickly at best will not be entirely unwelcome in Dublin either.

And yet to believe that Biden will oversee the restoration of the status quo ante is wishful thinking. The world has changed since 2016. Trump’s protectionist, nativist creed, America First, has lost little of its attraction for millions of Americans, not least in blue-collar states that Biden needed for victory. That will have an impact on the Democrat’s approach to trade and China, which his party increasingly regards as, first and foremost, a geopolitical and economic rival.

Within the Democratic foreign policy community, the populist revolt has resulted in a reevaluation of long-held assumptions; for example, the value of heavy American involvement in the Middle East is now widely questioned. Those who hope for a more interventionist orientation are likely to be disappointed. Although Biden supported the Iraq war, more recently he opposed the Afghan surge and military action in Libya. The American public’s diminishing appetite for foreign entanglements will make him even more cautious.

Biden will bring respite and relief to America’s allies. But that familiar embrace, and the tonal shift that accompanies it, will not be enough to reconstruct a world that no longer exists.

US Election Results

FULL DATA HERE
The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.