The World According to Joe Biden

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By ALEXANDRE G. DE B. FIGUEIREDO*

The ideas about international politics of the Democratic candidate for the presidency of the USA

The covid-19 pandemic in the United States, added to Donald Trump's denialism, had already hindered what appeared to be a likely re-election. Trump minimized the risk of the disease, stood up against social isolation measures and saw, with that, his country reach the mark of 7 million infected and more than 200 deaths. Now, the contamination of the president himself casts yet another cloud of uncertainty over the outcome of the elections, to be held next month. According to the most recent polls, Joe Biden is the favorite.

However, in the United States, analysts ask a question similar to the one we asked here, in 2018, about the attack on Bolsonaro: Will Trump be able to make his disease an effective electoral weapon? And, in another sense, does Biden rise in the polls because a tainted Trump is the materialization of the failure of an extreme right-wing government? These are issues that will be confirmed at the polls in November.

For now, Biden's advantage is also the obvious advantage of having someone in the White House who does not practice racism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, lying and hatred as a method and in such an open way. However, in terms of foreign policy, Joe Biden does not promise anything very different from Trump in the punctum dolens of contemporary geopolitics.

The Democratic Party candidate is one of the most experienced US foreign policy politicians. As a senator, he sat on the powerful Foreign Relations Committee for years. In the vice-presidency of the Obama administration, he was also a prominent articulator on the matter. Incidentally, the proximity to Hilary Clinton's ideas is such that her main advisors for international relations are the same ones who also supported her.

Among them, the main one is Jake Sullivan, Biden's chief adviser for international relations and who had also been his adviser on national security, when Biden occupied the vice presidency. In the event of a Democratic victory, he tends to be, if not the Secretary of State, at least the National Security Advisor. In any case, he is an ideologue and a voice to be heard to scrutinize the foreign policy paths of an eventual Biden government.

Sullivan has defended a renewed vision of American exceptionalism, the formative idea according to which the United States would be a unique case and, therefore, with the mission of exercising the role of beacon of values ​​for a world that would not have the same conditions. of political and democratic maturation. Now, it is not different from the thinking presented by Trump and, before him, Dick Cheney, the true hawk of the Bush Jr. Sullivan is quick to say that, in fact, these Republicans (Trump, especially) are the ones who have appropriated an idea that does not belong to them to, in practice, exercise another policy.[I].

What this means exactly has yet to be explained. Sounds like a rather empty rhetoric? The reason is that this is exactly what it is. The Democratic campaign indicates that it seeks to sensitize the American middle class with popular concepts and visions, but without materiality. Sullivan has accused Republicans of practicing "predatory unilateralism"[ii]. However, his proposed alternative, repeated by Biden, can also be called “predatory multilateralism”: reinforce NATO, unite a coalition of states to pursue the enemies pointed out by the US.

“World peace” is not a concept that is in the presented platform.

The candidate follows the same line as his adviser. In an article in which he launched his vision of US relations with the world, Biden invoked, right from the title, the tired cliché of “American leadership”. For a post-Trump foreign policy, he titles his program “why America must lead again”. Immediately, the text argues that Trump would have frayed the US leadership, attacked friends, encouraged enemies, in addition to having moved away from the values ​​that would give identity to the country and legitimacy to its ostensible presence around the world.[iii].

Biden points to a difficult scenario, in which “the international system built by the US is collapsing”: the advance of authoritarianism, nationalism and anti-liberal policies. At this point, the only one in the text that appears to be a call to peace, he dialogues with a liberal tradition that sees barriers to international trade and nationalism as the germs of war. He preaches that the US engage in the climate issue, defends a green revolution, investments in technology and infrastructure and other proposals very dear to the same middle class to whom Jake Sullivan has preached, for years, his vision of the old and traditional “exceptionalism”.

Again, the question is worth asking: what is the real substance of the Democratic Party's proposal? Biden makes a vague appeal to some old values ​​and notions, without objectivity. Obama did the same when he was elected and even received a Nobel Peace Prize to later become the president with the biggest military budget in the history of the bellicose northern republic.

When the feet seek the ground, the scenery is not so idyllic.

Biden's criticism of Trump for abandoning the nuclear deal with Iran and for ordering the assassination of General Qasem Soleimani, the popular and effective commander of the Iranian Quds Force, sound more like the resumption of "smartpower" under Hilary Clinton's administration at the Secretariat. of State, than a call to good manners.

Furthermore, with regard to relations with Russia, the Democratic candidate proposes confrontation. He accuses the Russian government of crimes and says that the US must expand NATO's activities and return to tighten the ties loosened by Trump with European allies. Therefore, nothing different from what was practiced by Washington in post-Cold War triumphalism: Biden projects a NATO even more engaged in the siege of Russia. The consequence of this policy was, as is known, instability in Eastern Europe and Moscow's (sensible) pursuit of defending its security and sovereignty. Strictly speaking, Russian “actions” on the geopolitical chessboard are, in fact, reactions to NATO expansion, against which even Henry Kissinger issued warnings.

For China, neither Biden nor his adviser bring softer words than those of the current government. In May of this year, Sullivan emulated Pompeo and wrote in Foreign Policy that China has a “global domination blueprint”. In the same text, in a sincere passage, he confesses that his concern is more with a “challenge to the leadership of the United States”. His article leads to the conclusion that a State that grows economically, invests in research and seeks trade agreements with other countries will automatically be “challenging US leadership”[iv].

For his part, Biden goes along the same lines. For the most likely future president of the United States, China intends to extend its influence by investing in high technology (how nice it would be if Brazil could be accused of such audacity today). Finally, he preaches an even more intense confrontation than that promoted by Trump…

A victory for Joe Biden would, of course, be good news in a world in which governments of powers have relied on the strength of the worst prejudices and latent incivility, not to mention “flat earthism”. However, for the main geopolitical issues of the time, the recipe presented so far is the same: to defend the interests of the United States by putting any country in the world that dares to develop on the defensive. Despite all the symbolic burden of a defeat by Trump, the return of the Democrats cannot be hailed as emissaries of peace in search of an open and democratic path for the world.

*Alexandre G. de B. Figueiredo He holds a PhD from the Graduate Program in Latin American Integration (PROLAM-USP).

 

Notes


[I]https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/inventing-a-post-trump-foreign-policy-an-interview-with-the-former-obama-adviser-jake-sullivan

[ii]https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/01/yes-america-can-still-lead-the-world/576427/

[iii]https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2020-01-23/why-america-must-lead-again

[iv]https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/05/22/china-superpower-two-paths-global-domination-cold-war/

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