Will better governance at home resuscitate influence abroad?



As President Joe Biden’s inaugural address fades from view, it will be easy for the standard retrenchment vs. engagement debate to emerge, notes Daniel Drezner, a professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Traditionally, I have been on the engagement side of that argument. This time is different. For Biden, foreign policy really has to start at home, he writes for the Post:

This is not to say that the Biden administration should be isolationist. Far from it. Biden has put together a stellar foreign policy and national security team [including several associates of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group] dedicated to restoration. The more the United States displays policy competency, the greater U.S. influence will be globally. With Biden inaugurated, other actors in the world are now asking whether the past four years are an aberration or the beginning of permanent incompetency. For Biden, better governance at home will resuscitate influence abroad.

While some observers insist the time is ripe for the administration’s proposed Summit for Democracy, Oxford University’s Adam McCauley argues in Open Canada that the initiatives is likely to fail for two main reasons:

  • First, in selecting participants, Biden will probably alienate both friends and foes as his administration tries to balance their stated values against America’s hard interests.
  • Secondly, the summit seems to confuse the symptoms of democratic decay with their cause: authoritarianism or autocracy has grown increasingly potent where people perceive the liberal democratic promise has not, and cannot, deliver at home.

Biden’s true democratic restoration must begin and meaningfully progress in America before a global summit is either useful or feasible, he contends.

In the above episode of the International Institute for Strategic Studies podcast, Meia Nouwens is joined by Dr Ben Rhode, Editor of The Adelphi Series and IISS Senior Fellow for Transatlantic Affairs, and Dr Kori Schake, Director of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute and former IISS Deputy Director-General, to look ahead at what to expect from President Biden’s administration.

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