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Joe Biden Must Embrace Liberal Nationalism to Lead America Forward / Three Things Joe Biden Must Do to Restore American Foreign Policy

Authors: John J. Mearsheimer / Robert D. Kaplan

Affiliation: The University of Chicago, Department of Political Science / The Foreign Policy Research Institute

Organization/Publisher: The National Interest

Date/Place: December 29, 2020/ January 3, 2021, USA

Type of Literature: Two Articles

Word Count: 1770


Keywords: Joe Biden, Liberal Nationalism, Realist Internationalism, Domestic Crisis, and US Foreign Policy


In these two articles, the famous Realists John Mearsheimer and Robert Kaplan present their brief insights about the main problems that the Biden administration will face, both domestically and internationally, and the most important things that should be done to overcome these problems so that America restores itself and moves forward. In the first article, Mearsheimer argues that the US has been living in a deep predicament at home and abroad, even before Trump’s era. Therefore, Biden will face a daunting task in trying to correct the course of the state. At the domestic level, the most serious problems are the toxic polarization of the political body, the heavily affected institutions, the outbreak of the Corona pandemic, and a set of long-term economic problems. The author argues that Biden is not in a good position to deal with these problems due to many reasons, including the possibility that Republicans will continue trying to obstruct his political initiatives and delegitimize his presidency in revenge for what the Democrats did with Trump, as Biden did not win a sweeping mandate and his party is deeply divided between its centrist and progressive wings. Therefore, he will have only a narrow room for maneuver that enables him to reverse some of Trump’s bad policies on issues such as immigration and the environment. Mearsheimer believes that the most important domestic goal in the short term is to control the Coronavirus without harming the economy or increasing the existing polarization. As for the most important domestic goal, in the long run, it must be to reinforce a strong sense of American nationalism among the Americans, after the former elites harmed the country’s social unity. For him, the US is not simply a liberal state, it is a liberal nation-state. In terms of foreign policy, the dominant issue is how to contain China’s rising. The Biden administration should prevent China from dominating Asia by improving relations with America’s Asian allies and creating an effective alliance that keeps China at bay. Biden must abandon “Russophobia” and work to bring Moscow into the balancing coalition against China, as Beijing, not Moscow, is the main threat to Washington’s interests today. Biden does not have to start new, unnecessary wars, and he must end the US military presence in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. Finally, Biden must avoid potential pressure from the foreign establishment that might push him to pursue a policy of regime change abroad and the use of military force for that sometimes. In the second essay, Kaplan argues that America is the leading democracy in the world. Therefore, it should return to promoting liberal societies but do so with limits in mind. The process of restoring US foreign policy requires three things: professionalism, crisis management, and a sustainable vision. The Trump administration has caused a reduction of US foreign policy influence around the world because of officials who did not have enough experience, and that many important positions remained vacant, so the author calls on the new president to immediately provide the bureaucracy with high-level talent in all sectors if he wants to remove much of the inherited damage. Regarding the second point, the author sees how Trump dealt with the pandemic as an example of bad crisis management. So, he calls upon Biden to select a competent national security team that is able to handle crises in a coherent manner without illusions. As for the sustainable vision, it means actively engaging with the world and striving at the same time to avoid any large military deployment that would plunge the US again. Here, Kaplan argues that both Isolationist and Off-shore Balancing approaches are inappropriate for a world that is more claustrophobic and interconnected. In return, he calls for an approach he calls “Realist Internationalism,” which is based on cautious diplomatic engagement in the world, consolidating democracy around it without pursuing regime change in countries such as China and Russia; that is, taking into account realist calculations in dealing with rising powers mainly. This is how American foreign policy can be restored and the country can be moved forward.


By: Djallel Khechib, CIGA Senior Research Associate




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