Donald Trump was supposed to be an aberration—a U.S. president whose foreign policy marked a sharp but temporary break from an internationalism that had defined seven decades of U.S. interactions with the world. He saw little value in alliances and spurned multilateral institutions. He eagerly withdrew from existing international agreements, such as the Paris climate accord and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and backed away from new ones, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). He coddled autocrats and trained his ire on the United States’ democratic partners.
At first glance, the foreign policy of U.S. President Joe Biden could hardly be more different. He professes to value the United States’ traditional allies in Europe and Asia, celebrates multilateralism, and hails his administration’s commitment to a “rules-based international order.” He treats climate change as a serious threat and arms control as an essential tool. He sees the fight of our time as one between democracy and autocracy, pledging to convene what he is calling the Summit for Democracy to reestablish U.S. leadership in the democratic cause. “America is back,” he proclaimed shortly after taking office.
…notwithstanding Biden’s pledge “to help lead the world toward a more peaceful, prosperous future for all people,” the reality is that Americans want the benefits of international order without doing the hard work of building and maintaining it.